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The State of Play 2018: Audio consumer insights report

Aug 2, 2018

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The State of Play 2018

Consumer desires and the purchase drivers for personal audio and speakers

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Over the last few years, we’ve seen new trends emerge in audio consumption, from streaming to voice UI to audio everywhere (at home and on-the-go). As a result, consumers are holding audio technology to higher standards, and these evolving expectations are influencing the way manufacturers develop devices. They're focusing on battery life, freedom from wires, connectivity, and superior sound quality, so listeners enjoy a better audio experience.

In order to better enable our customers to meet the changing demands of consumers, Qualcomm Technologies International worked with OnePoll to survey 6,000 American, British, and Chinese adult smartphone users about their listening habits, the current state of wireless personal audio, and their purchasing drivers.

Here’s a summary of what we found:

Sound quality comes first

Nothing ruins a song like the loss of depth and clarity, which can occur when bass tones and high frequencies aren’t accurately reproduced. Of those surveyed, 76 percent agreed: Sound quality is the highest-ranked factor when choosing wireless headphones or speakers. Additionally, 79 percent of respondents said they look for high-resolution audio support when choosing wireless headphones or speakers to purchase and that they would be willing to pay more for the feature.

Truly wireless earbuds are increasing in popularity

More than half of the respondents said they plan to purchase completely wire-free earbuds — a sign that the product type is moving away from its fitness niche and into the mainstream. Chinese consumers seem especially excited about this newfound freedom from wires, with more than 80 percent saying they plan to buy a pair. Overall, improving battery life, comfort, and sound quality should be seen as the most important design considerations for true wireless earbuds, as 62 percent of respondents agreed that features need to be balanced with sound quality.

Consumers are looking for smarter speakers

As smart speakers and home hubs grow in popularity, people have increasingly embraced them and their UI features. Of those surveyed, 78 percent said that using voice to interact with their electronic devices has made or will make their lives easier. In fact, smart speakers are now the most sought-after consumer audio device. The largest portion of respondents (32 percent) said that if they could purchase only one device within the next 12 months, it would be a smart speaker with a cloud-based voice assistant.

Voice-enabled speakers are typically used in the home, but almost half of the consumers surveyed said that they would like to use their smart speakers outside of the home. This expectation will most likely influence speaker manufacturers and product development. Battery life, local cellular connectivity, and voice capture technologies, especially in noisy environments, will be top-of-mind.

Learn more about what consumers surveyed expect from the next wave of audio technology: 

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