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The State of Play Report 2020: Truly wireless earbud popularity drives demand for robust, on-the-go listening experiences

Sep 2, 2020

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In our first State of Play report published five years ago, we recognized that most earbuds, headphones, and speakers would go completely wireless. That is now a reality, and this year’s surge in truly wireless earbud adoption brings new consumer expectations and possibilities for audio.

For this year’s report, we analyzed responses from 5,000 smartphone users across the U.S., U.K., Germany, China, and Japan to uncover their purchase drivers and how they engage with audio in the truly wireless age.

Here’s a summary of what we discovered:

The truly wireless age is here

According to the study, 73 percent of consumers are now interested in complete freedom from wires. Adoption of truly wireless earbuds nearly doubled compared to findings in our 2019 State of Play report, from 23 percent to 42 percent across the globe.

Comfort now as important as battery life

This year, comfort has risen to join battery life as the second most important wireless headphone and/or earbud purchase driver, reflecting the growing trend towards longer periods of wireless listening.

Video streaming and mobile gaming are more popular than ever

Our findings show that video media consumption is the second most popular use case for wireless headphones, and third most popular for earbuds. In addition, almost half of all consumers surveyed reported using wireless audio products while gaming.

Noise cancellation is now a key feature for all product tiers

Consumer demand for noise cancellation increases every year, and in our latest report, 71 percent of consumers surveyed said they’re interested in the feature. Noise cancellation is now the fourth most-wanted feature for wireless headphones, making it a key differentiator for manufacturers.

Smart speakers continue to drive growth

Our data shows continued demand for smart speakers. Of those surveyed, 51 percent currently own a smart speaker or intend to own one within the next 12 months — a 16 percent increase from last year.

Sound quality remains the ultimate purchase driver

Sound quality is the single most important feature consumers look for when purchasing audio devices, even outranking price. We found that 77 percent of this year’s respondents said they’re interested in high-resolution sound quality.

Working closely with the world’s leading audio brands, Qualcomm Technologies is making features like advanced, low-latency Bluetooth connectivity, superior noise cancellation, richer, more immersive sound, voice assistance, and more possible by inventing audio technologies that help transform how the world connects, computes, and communicates. Check out the full State of Play Report 2020 for additional insights into the ways audio consumers are connecting to their media content and what they’re looking for in their next earbud, headphone, and speaker purchases.

*All percentages, consumer behaviors and attitudes stated in this report are based only on the responses of the individuals who participated in our survey.

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