A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

October 17, 2019

Google Rejoining Hearables Market

Dave Kemp really knows the hearables market. His analysis always runs deep – here’s an excerpt from his latest about Google’s Pixel Buds 2.0:

Given the meteoric rise of the hearables market, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Amazon, Microsoft and Google are joining (Google, re-joining) Apple and Samsung in the hearables arena. While the market might be big and swelling, it’s also due to become increasingly cut-throat as the market fills up with more and more offerings. So, how exactly will Pixel Buds look to stand apart?

The most obvious answer to this is Google Assistant, which is arguably the most intelligent and capable voice assistant on the market today. I recently wrote a post pondering which of these new hearables will ultimately become the “Android-ecosystem AirPods” and there’s a case to be made that Pixel Buds’ path to becoming an AirPods-like hit for the Android ecosystem, runs squarely through Google’s ability to articulate the increasing value of having its voice assistant reside in Google’s own hearable.

There are parts of this announcement that are a tad bit concerning, however. As Bret Kinsella pointed out, waiting until spring of 2020 might be a mistake. The reason being is that the 2019 holiday season is incredibly important for the new entrants in the hearables space to gain initial market share and momentum as the hearables’ market begins to become crowded. As Nick Hunn mentioned in his recent piece, these new entrants are not likely to poach from Apple as the consumer satisfaction rates of AirPods is too high, and therefore will likely be incremental sales, largely catering to the Android market.

By foregoing this year’s holiday season, Google is essentially ceding the early market to Amazon’s Echo Buds due out later this month (along with Microsoft, Samsung and other hearables manufacturers too). Given that Amazon is Google closest VoiceFirst competitor, this seems like a poor decision, especially as Google owns such a dominant position on the on-the-go voice assistant market through its Android handset ecosystem. This might ultimately open the door for Amazon to gain the Alexa foothold it so desperately needs outside of the home, via Echo Buds targeting Android users.