True Wireless Stereo, also known as TWS enjoyed its breakout since the winter of 2016 and is still rocking. In a word, TWS refers to the technology that connects one “dominant” earbud with smartphone (or other devices), and the “dominant” connects another earbud, to make 2-channel stereo without a physical wire possible.
TWS technology is applied to Bluetooth earphones and created the star in consumer electronics industry in 2018. Earbuds with TWS usually can be used as one set of 2ch earphone, or 2 individual earbuds (which is a bonus). The mobility and versatility defined its success and gave consumers an easy choice over some entry-level headphones.
Better User Experience, Lower Pricing
When we talk about TWS earphones, Apple AirPods is the pioneer. It has been questioned, complemented and followed since its launch day on September 8th, 2016. We can’t ignore that AirPods is at least one of, if not the most popular Apple accessory.
More earphone and audio chip manufacturers are following up and pushing the pricing level of this category to somewhere near history low. You can experience TWS earbuds like Arbily X9 with decent audio quality, portable metal charging case for $40.99 only, which is just 1/3 of AirPod price.
(List of major Bluetooth TWS audio platform solutions – litlit.com, Jan, 2019)
By January 2019, 8 major audio chip brands have published 18 solutions. Besides of Airoha, AppoTech, Actions, BES, Broadcom, Cypress, REALTEK and Qualcomm, more original manufacturers are working on their own platform.
Bluetooth 5.0 Becoming a Standard
We made a list of smart phones that support Bluetooth 5.0. Most of them are flagships of major smart phone brands like Apple, Samsung and Huawei. The well-received Bluetooth standard provided solid base for TWS devices.
(List of major smart phone models that support Bluetooth 5.0)
The first ever smartphone that supports Bluetooth 5.0 (according to release date) is Samsung Galaxy S8. Apple supports Bluetooth 5.0 since iPhone 8. We can also expect great performance on next generation Huawei Mate phones, with HiSilicon starting a new Bluetooth R&D team.
Adiós to 3.5mm Audio Jack
Most new iPhones and Android phones release in recent months called 3.5mm audio jack off. Instead they merged USB Type-C/Lightning port with it. It might be a progress for industrial design but it also brought up confusions about charging/audio dilemma. With this trend TWS earbuds cut a big slice of market by outstanding wired earphones, especially the “entry-level” ones, with absolutely no wire, no adapter and more future-like appearance.
The New Interface of AI Input
In 2017 we witnessed the rise of AI home speakers. Smart phone, computer and even online retailers invested heavily on their own smart devices. TWS earphones just made the interaction with your AI device one step closer. Imagine you’re driving home and simply call out voice assistant via earphone, instead of sparing one hand for the phone (which is not allowed or encouraged in most countries).
We can expect more TWS earphone brands support the most popular AI assistants including but not limited to Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana. The list can be longer if we consider Bixby, Jovi, YOYO… and hundreds of virtual figures Chinese smart phone brands published.
If we describe TWS earphones as the vehicle, the smart phones would be the highway. There’s no doubt that trends of phone industry have great impacts on the future of TWS headphones. With progress in Bluetooth transmission, battery technology, audio chip solutions and iOS/Android system support, we can see TWS earphone, as a serious audio option to dominate the market in a few years.