On the Move Tech Gathers Pace

Sales of mobile products are growing rapidly, which has led to a wide range of accessories launching in different categories

  • BY RICHARD BARNES 

Wireless or wired? In-ear, on-ear or over-ear? When it comes to headphones, the possibilities are endless. And that’s a good thing, because music preferences and reasons for using headphones can vary significantly.

The global demand for headphones and earphones is primarily driven by the perpetually growing demand for smartphones, tablets, and portable media devices.

With the advancements in technology, not only have headphones and earphones become more lightweight and compact, but also more feature rich.

In order to compete in a crowded market, manufacturers are focusing on product innovation and new product developments.

Essentially, there are three different types of headphones. In-ear headphones plug directly into the ear; on-ear headphones hug the ears with padding; Over-ear headphones, meanwhile, wrap around the entire ear.

On-ear products are popular as they allow for heat exchange, which prevents the ears from overheating and also makes them more comfortable.

WEARABLES SALES ON THE RISE

The demand for wearables is showing positive growth. This product group includes smart watches, health and fitness trackers and wrist sport computers such as GPS pulse watches. Connected watches, headphones with sensors and locators for finding children or senior citizens using GPS, are also smaller segments within wearables.

Demand for wearables in Western Europe increased by 22% year-on-year in the first six months of 2017, according to GfK. In terms of sales value, the market grew by 33%. This compares to Asia, which saw an increase of 21% in unit sales and 26% in sales value.

Fitness trackers still make up the largest portion in volume of wearables, with one out of two wearables sold in Western Europe being a fitness tracker. However, growth rates in the European market came in slightly under the product group average, standing at 20% for unit sales and 27% for sales value. The average selling price did achieve an increase of 6% to reach €99.

GET CONNECTED

Connected watches are most similar to conventional watches and are increasingly offered by manufacturers of traditional wristwatches. Demand in Western Europe increased by 104% year-on-year in the first half of 2017, while sales value increased by 109%. Still their share within wearables overall is small, standing below 2%, but is expected to grow notably in the mid-term.

Locators are especially popular with consumers in Asia, where every fifth wearable device sold is a locator. In Western Europe, the segment has yet to attract much interest.

Earables, which are headphones with special sensors, are currently establishing themselves as a new category within the wearables product group.

VIRTUAL REALITY HELPS TO GENERATE ADDITIONAL REVENUE 

Besides wearables, VR headsets and VR head-mounted displays are also contributing to the increase in spend within Europe for mobile devices. VR headsets require the addition of a suitable smartphone for use, and are therefore relatively simple and affordable with an average selling price of €33.

The overall market for VR glasses has shown especially dynamic growth, starting from a very low baseline. This was particularly evident in the fourth quarter of 2016.

In the first half of 2017, revenue was €110m, corresponding to sales of 893,000 devices. The highest demand within Europe was observed in Great Britain, which accounted for 26% of the total sales volume for Western Europe, followed by France and Germany, standing at 23% and 16% respectively.

22% Sales of wearables in Western Europe increased 22% year-on-year in the first six months of 2017. Source: GfK


893,000 pairs of VR glasses sold in first six months of 2017. Source: GfK


6% The average selling price of fitness trackers increased 6% to reach €99 in the six months to the end of June 2017. Source: GfK