Welcome to the Era of TWS

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TWS or True Wireless Stereo is surely a big market opportunity in the technology devices space today. The ease-of-use, mass availability, innovative form factors and affordability are pushing the market opportunities up. More and more brands are entering this market to carve out their share. Let us understand the finer details of the technology in the TWS segment and why it is getting popular in India What is True Wireless Stereo Technology (TWS)?

When you look at the audio products in any store and see the numerous products on display, it just makes you feel that there is nothing else to search, you have it all there. However, the real enthusiasts of audio equipment are looking forward to the newest wireless technology that takes the entire listening experience to the next level. We call it ‘the entire listening experience’ because it’s not only the performance and the sound quality of your headphones and wireless speakers that matter but the entire experience including the comfort at different levels.

In this article, we are going to introduce you the TWS and show how it offers uncluttered satisfaction filled with pure music. This technology hasn’t been perfected yet, but even in its current stage of development, it delivers more than satisfying performance; it offers more freedom, more opportunity for interaction with the objects and people around us.

What Is True Wireless Stereo Technology?

In order to understand the true wireless stereo technology, we have to explain to you the terms ‘true wireless’ and ‘stereo’ which combines to make TWS.

True wireless technology

True wireless technology is the ‘art’ of transferring sound wirelessly through Bluetooth. The wireless transmission is enabled by a small chip built into the source and into the receiving device (or devices). The true wireless devices (headphones/earbuds and speakers) have many form factors but the most important one is that there are no cables of any kind. 

This means not only that you won’t have to connect two or more of these devices into a system and to the source of sound with cables but also that you won’t have to use the cable to supply it/them with power. These speakers/headphones come in all shapes and sizes and have different types of rechargeable batteries that can last up to 12 or 15 hours, depending on the price and quality. The cheapest speakers/headphones have shorter battery life (from 4 to 8 hours per charge).

True wireless devices can be used alone or in the form of a system of the matching devices connected to one another. They are highly portable and can be used in different parts of your house/apartment, or even outdoors in case their build quality allows.

True wireless headphones/earbuds

True wireless earbuds are small, light and simple-to-use type of headphones that can be found at very reasonable prices. They are rechargeable and portable, and they enable you to use them in pairs or only one of them while performing different activities such as doing house chores, walking, running or even driving. True wireless earbuds/headphones enable greater mobility due to lack of cables.

How True Wireless Technology Works?

If you have a pair of true wireless earbuds or true wireless speakers, which are supposed to be connected into a true wireless stereo system, the first thing to do is to turn the Bluetooth on and pair one of these devices (the user manual usually indicates which one shall be used first) that can be called the master device to the selected audio source (smartphone, player, PC, TV, etc). 

After successfully pairing the first device with the audio source, you will want to pair the second device (the so-called ‘slave’) to the master device, not the source. This way, you’ll get your stereo system, which plays separate left and right channels, making the music more comfortable and real to your ears.

The technology is actually based on chips. Every Bluetooth device has a built-in chip responsible for sending and receiving audio signals wirelessly. The main speaker receives them from the source device and it remains mono in case the connection finishes there. In case the main speaker is paired with another speaker, it starts sending the signals towards its ‘slave’ and the signal is split into two channels – left and right.

The Main Advantages of True Wireless Technology

Simple setup

True wireless stereo technology has not been perfected yet, but it’s been very popular lately. Although it may sound complicated when you pronounce the name, TWS is actually quite simple. 

The devices you use must feature Bluetooth connectivity and be able to pair with each other. Apart from this, you may have to download an app in order to enable pairing or to control the performance but there’s nothing too complicated or confusing. The devices are simple and most of them manage to pair in just a few seconds. In case you need some help, you can always consult the user manual that explain the process in a few simple steps.

Free of cables

It may be a bit difficult to believe but these devices and systems really don’t have any cables. The connection is established via Bluetooth and the rechargeable battery is the power source. This characteristic is probably the most important advantage of TWS devices because it enables you to move freely wherever you want.

Good quality audio

Although Bluetooth technology is not perfect, the audio quality is not bad. The old Bluetooth versions were much limited when it comes to data transfer, but the new versions are much more capable and they can deliver pretty good audio quality (even Hi-Res audio in some cases). The new devices that support one of the latest Bluetooth versions combined with aptX HD or LDAC support can deliver an impressive sound quality.

Reasonable Prices

The price depends on many things – build quality, durability, size, battery life, driver quality, etc. It also depends on the manufacturer and, in some cases, you’ll be paying an additional price for the brand. Still, true wireless stereo devices don’t cost a fortune. If you have enough money to spend on big brand speakers/headphones or similar products, go for it, but if you don’t, you can always find something cheaper. The market is so big and you will definitely find a reasonably priced device for you.

Key Takeaways for the TWS Market in India

Apple dominated the India TWS market throughout 2019 driven by strong sales of second-generation AirPods. Though Apple is now facing stiff competition with many OEMs entering the segment, factors like its reputation as a pioneer, noise-cancelling feature, easy integration with Apple devices and quick charging have helped it maintain its leadership position. So, Apple will continue to command lion share moving forward.

Noise an upstart brand focusing on smart wearables grabbed the second spot with a double-digit market share in 2019. With a portfolio of well-designed TWS devices with a long battery life, good audio quality, and affordable pricing, it succeeded in attracting masses. Noise’s Shots X1 Air and X5 also among the top-five best-selling TWS models in 2019.

JBL captured 3rd position with an 8% market share in 2019. The launch of its C100TWS in Dec 2019 with an amazing introductory offer of  INR 4000 discount together with good bass reproduction, fast charging and one-click access to Siri and Google made it popular among consumers and made JBL 3rd best-selling brand in India.

Moving Forward

An all-round connected devices IoT strategy is prompting entry of many smartphone OEMs in this fast-growing segment. Some brands are using an affordable pricing strategy and strong growth momentum while some are leveraging cutting-edge features to command a premium position. In all, TWS is becoming an important part of smartphone OEMs’ connected devices strategy and to drive ecosystem stickiness. 

And moving forward, we can surely expect more OEMs to jump in and follow Apple, Samsung and realme in the India market where the attach rate for wireless buds is still quite low. Further, the current COVID-19 pandemic situation is set to accelerate the demand for TWS as many people are working from home and connecting through voice and video calls.

Apart from the top three, Samsung and realme are the two other major players in the Indian TWS market. Samsung held the 4th position in the market share in the India TWS Market in 2019. Brand popularity, stylish design, comfortable fit of its Galaxy Buds attracted consumers’ attention and helped the brand to cut 7% market share in total TWS shipments in 2019. Targeting a larger installed base of Samsung smartphones and attractive bundling offers with flagship handsets has helped Samsung grow its share in this fastest-growing consumer electronics segment.

The growing potential of the TWS segment in India has attracted multiple smartphone OEMs’ attention to complement their smartphone offerings. realme, one of the fastest-growing brands in India, launched its first TWS – Buds Air in Dec 2019 and immediately jumped up to become the fifth-largest brand within the first month of its launch. Buds Air’s form-factor—similar to Apple’s AirPods, good-enough sound quality and features such as low-latency gaming mode, at an affordable price point, raised its overall value proposition.

Growth in Wearables

Riding high on the tremendous success of TWS segment, the overall wearables market is expected to see huge growth in the near future.

While wearables market has come a long way to include more than just smartwatches, we will more in future in this space. With the number of peripherals increasing and innovation guiding the industry, the wearables market is expected to see a huge growth in the near future.

According to a Global Data report, the wearables market is heading towards a boom, despite smartwatches seeing a decline in 2020 – which is primarily due to the success of TWS category products. The popularity of TWS category is increasing day by day and more and more brands are likely to join the TWS bandwagon in the coming times. 

The report stated that by 2024, the wearables market will double in comparison to 2019. In 2019, the wearable industry is said to have brought in USD 27 billion. That high sum might not be reflected in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, which has caused the market to decline (especially for smartwatches).

While 2020 has been harsh on various industries, there appears a silver lining. The year 2021 and beyond is expected to be a booming phase for the smartwatch segment, which will uplift the overall market as well. Global Data estimates that the market as a whole for wearables could be worth USD 64 billion by 2024. 

Furthermore, smartwatch sales are expected to recover in 2021. But keep in mind, that the industry also includes other peripherals like TWS earbuds, which have become very popular recently.

Qualcomm’s Adaptive ANC – the Next Big Thing in TWS Space

Active noise cancellation (ANC) has been found to be of interest for 71% of consumers planning to buy true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds – as per a latest research by Qualcomm. 

However, the feature does require physical seals and a fit that some users may find less tolerable over time. Qualcomm claims that its new Adaptive ANC solves these problems.

Qualcomm claims its recent research shows ANC is the fourth most-wanted spec among consumers polled who are interested in new TWS earbuds. Similarly, in-ear comfort was a ‘key purchase criterion’ for 53% of respondents. However, achieving ANC often requires physical seals and ‘fitting sessions’ conducted within the app for the devices in question – which may prove incompatible with comfort over time.

Furthermore, users might find themselves re-adjusting their earbuds as they move in response to working out or even walking around, perhaps even pushing the bud extremely far into the ear canal. Qualcomm claims that its new Adaptive ANC works unaffected by all these issues.

Then again, this new feature, unveiled as part of its virtual IFA 2020 showcase, also apparently allows for ‘natural leak-through’ so that the user can stay aware of their environment if necessary.

Adaptive ANC has been developed to work across various earbud shapes and fit styles, which means OEMs may show more flexibility in designing the TWS devices of the near future.

These products will need newer Qualcomm platforms, such as the QCC514x Bluetooth 5.0 SoCs, to support the new tech, however. They are available to manufacturers at present.

To sum up

TWS and wearables market is witnessing a boom and is set to offer a lot of opportunities to the players in the coming times. We can see more innovations and advanced features coming up in the near future. Though competition is increasing in these segments with new players every day, still there is a lot of opportunity for players who offer great features and form factors at affordable prices. We wish the mobile accessories vendors and partners will make best use of these opportunities.    

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India’s TWS Market Scenario

India’s TWS hearables market grows 656% in Q2 and realme leads the market

India’s True Wireless Stereo (TWS) market posted 656% (year-on-year) growth in the second quarter of this year, becoming one of the few segments which actually grew during the pandemic, according to a Counterpoint Research report. 

realme, which entered the India TWS market in Dec 2019, emerged as the leading brand in Q2 driven by the newly-launched realme Buds Air Neo and Buds Q.

Xiaomi, which entered the India TWS market in Q2 2020 with the launch of two devices — Redmi Earbuds S and Mi True Wireless 2 — managed to capture the second spot. JBL remained at the third position while increasing its share to 15% in Q2 2020. Launch of three more devices and strong demand for its model C100TWS drove the growth.

Entry of players like Xiaomi and OPPO, and launch of more affordable devices pushed the average selling price (ASP) to the lower side, making it possible to reach a larger section of the population.

Though the competition has intensified, this segment holds immense growth potential as it still covers just 10% of the hearables segment in India.

Apart from the top three brands (realme, Xiaomi, JBL), boAt and pTron are the two other major players in the India’s TWS market. boAt, a home-grown start-up, held the fourth position in Q2 2020. pTron, another local brand which was launched in 2015 in consumer electronics and mobile accessories including TWS, held the fifth position in Q2 2020.

After Realme, OPPO and Xiaomi, Vivo, OnePlus and Sony have entered this segment and, going forward, we might see more OEMs joining and increasing the competition in this category. Increasing content consumption by smartphone users, features like smart assistants, portability, etc drove the demand for TWS in the Indian sub-continent.

The availability of many affordable devices by players like realme, Xiaomi and Noise, immediately caught consumers’ attention with their audio quality and ease-of-use. As the India market remains largely untapped for TWS, the segment holds a huge growth potential and opportunity with new entrants increasing day by day.

The increasing audio content consumption, portability, and advancements like health and fitness tracking, smart assistants are also making TWS popular among smartphone users and driving the demand ahead quite exponentially.