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Music, Work, Gaming and Health – The Growing Role of Headphones Post-Pandemic

The global headphones market celebrated a good year in 2020, growing in both volumes and retail value, to reach 480m units and generate $44 billion. As consumers have spent more time at home throughout the pandemic, headphones really have become an integral device in our daily lives. Households have spent more time multitasking - listening to a combination of music, watching entertainment content, and integrating the different aspects of virtual communication involved with home working, home-learning and socialising.

Over the last couple of years, and particularly during the pandemic, we have seen significant overlap in use-cases (office, gaming, health & wellness) which we expect will continue post pandemic. ‘The varied use cases are also merging with the TWS form factor to create new use-case specific segments’, commented Rasika D'Souza, Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

In its latest market outlook reports, Futuresource goes on to map out the global headphone landscape, including the new emerging segments that have evolved around these use-cases:

  • Office Based Hearables - Products such as Microsoft Surface Earbuds or Jabra Evolve 65t which focus on improved microphone performance, Unified Communications (UC) synchronisation and multi-device pairing.
  • Hearing Augmentation Hearables with the advent of OTC Hearing Aid regulations, TWS and hearing Aids are drawing ever closer and producing products like the Signia Active X. Partnerships such as Qualcomm and Jacoti are also bringing such features to mass-market hearables.
  • Gaming Hearables targeted at Mobile Gaming are growing in popularity, particularly in markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, with reduced latency, spatial audio, and mic chat becoming sought-after features.
  • Sports & Wellness Hearables – Products such as Frames which focus on open-ear audio encouraging situational awareness. as well as the potential for biometric sensors to monitor vital life signs and provide deeper, smarter health insights.

There are certainly interesting use cases and categories that are evolving; however according to Futuresource, these ‘segment-specific’ products are set to remain relatively niche. Conversely, the market points to some of these features finding their way into a ‘one-product-fits-all’ solution. D'Souza comments, “it is likely future products will have to include features which satisfy these specific use-cases, for example including things such as an IPX4 rating, gaming modes, improved microphone capabilities, compatibility to video conferencing software, conversational enhancement, sound personalisation features or biometrics”.


2020 and beyond for TWS

According to Futuresource Consulting, COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for True Wireless (TWS) earbuds. These devices have improved significantly in terms of connectivity and battery life and are able to satisfy multiple use cases, which benefitted its uptake during the pandemic.

The growth in demand for TWS was also driven by the decision of major smartphone brands to drop the headphone jack and now a lack of bundled-in-the-box wired headphones. However, the growth of TWS is at the expense of other form-factors such as Wired models and On-Ear which have continued to see rapid decline.

Futuresource concludes that 2021 is expected to be another year of growth, with smartphone brands dropping bundled headphones and travel retail reopening as we return to the ‘new normal’. Growth is also expected from China, as well as other developing regions where True Wireless has become more affordable.

For more information regarding the Futuresource’s Global Headphone and Hearables Reports or market trackers please contact Leon Morris at

Date Published:

Kayley Bright

About the author

Kayley Bright

Kayley Bright is the Associate Director of Marketing for Futuresource Consulting, leading Futuresource’s inhouse marketing team. Kayley begun her career in marketing ten years ago following the completion of her English Literature degree at Loughborough University. Since then, her keen interest in content creation, combined with a love for art, led her to pursue a career in marketing to support with creative brand building and business growth. In her spare time Kayley is a pencil portrait artist, who is currently working on transferring her skillset to the world of digital art!

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