#Trending: Are people ready to wear smart earbuds?

Bluetooth headphones are doing big sales - here's what next
#Trending: Ready for smart earbuds

Next week at IFA 2017 we'll have plenty of smartwatch and fitness tracker news by the looks of things. As usual, these two categories dominate the wearable tech conversation.

If you dig into the figures just out from Gartner, though, the sales of smartwatches, fitness 'wristbands' and sports watches combined are still lower than wireless headphone and earbud sales.

Go hearables!

Now, that doesn't actually mean hearables are doing wild sales, it refers to any Bluetooth headphones, which we tend not to class as "connected self" but it does include them. True hearables are unlikely to break out of the low millions in sales in the next few years.

And as we've argued before, the fact that wearing wireless 'phones for music, podcasts etc that can handle Siri or Google Assistant conversations is growing is promising. In fact it's growing from 128m sales in 2016 to 150m this year to an estimated 206m in 2020 is good news for what comes next.

Will it be all Beats and Apple hearables then?

They're big players, for sure, and we've made the case, based on patents, for smarter, next gen Apple AirPods, which focus on health tracking, being in development. It's still early days for experiments by big tech or audio companies, though. Right now we're still covering the new names.

Such as?

Well, Mike just reviewed the Nuheara IQbuds for one. They are a pair of wireless earbuds that stream music from your phone - they sound good - and let you enhance and manipulate the sound around you.

That means smart noise cancelling with presets and filters for different scenarios. It's all very similar to the Doppler Labs Here Ones, which we think are slightly more stylish in design.

#Trending: People are ready for smart earbuds

What if that audio augmenting isn't for me?

Fair enough. We're also seeing fresh startups and companies presenting their ideas in the sports coach in your ear scene. We recently spoke to crowdfunding success story KuaiFit who are vying to become the Garmin of sports headphones.

The first device is a pair of in-ears - wireless from your phone but not totally wireless - which handle voice coaching, heart rate monitoring, running and cycling tracking as well as a built-in music player. A fully waterproof version for swimmers is coming in early 2018.

OK hit me with some more names

It's a real mix of companies working in this space. A good place to start is to check out Hugh's big test of five hearables - the Samsung IconX, LifeBEAM Vi, Jabra Elite Sport, Doppler Here One and the new Bragi Dash Pro - for more detail on what performs and what disappoints.

Is now a good time to buy a hearable?

That depends. If you just can't wait, you're willing to spend time getting to know your device and perhaps waiting for updates to iron out kinks, then go for it. Otherwise we'd recommend holding off a month or two to scope out your options - we might even see new AirPods alongside an iPhone in September.


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