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Why Bluetooth is Winning in Wireless

Refined product design and consumer cravings are propelling sales

March 12, 2014 By Bob Ankosko
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You don’t have to too walk very far through a CE retailer’s aisles before bumping into yet another Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker. And it’s no wonder: The category exploded last year with sales hitting $785 million, up a whopping 175 percent over 2012, according to The NPD Group.

In a world increasingly defined by smartphone users who routinely share photos, videos and music on the fly, consumers are drawn to portable wireless speakers that make it possible to bypass tinny phone and tablet sound at prices that are easy on the wallet.

“Bluetooth is ever increasing its dominance in the portable speaker category, becoming virtually synonymous with ‘wireless’ to the majority of our customers,” observed Grant Lansdell, audio buyer for Indianapolis-based h.h. gregg. “For better or worse, wireless audio is disrupting everything we’ve come to know about selling speakers.”

Going Wireless
Apple helped pave the way for the rise of Bluetooth speakers when it replaced its ubiquitous 30-pin connector with the Lightning connector in the fall of 2012. By the end of 2013, the category had arrived.

“Bluetooth kind of exploded because everyone figured that they couldn’t depend on docks and physical connections anymore,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “We are optimistic that Bluetooth speakers will be among the top growing categories this year. It is growing much faster than the headphones market, but it is less than half the size in dollars and only about 10 percent of the headphone market in volume.”

A number of factors are contributing to the popularity of Bluetooth speakers, not the least of which is more people are using smartphones. “Consumers tend to look for universal wireless connectivity options that work seamlessly with their products,” said Evan Stein, director of marketing for the iHome division of SDI Technologies.

“We’ve been incorporating it into more of our products for some time now.”

The emergence of Bluetooth speakers that you can throw in your backpack or slip in your pocket has taught the public that the Bluetooth is about more than hands-free calling, providing a convenient way enhance their enjoyment of music wherever they are. Some manufacturers are even starting to incorporate near-field communications (NFC) technology to simplify pairing.

 “Bluetooth is something that most people have become familiar with, but pairing and connecting products isn’t always a simple process,” Stein said. “NFC has taken wireless connectivity to another level of simplicity: touch and pair.” Last year iHome added NFC support to some products and is rolling out more NFC-enabled products in 2014, including the iBN48 portable speaker.



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