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Blue Skies For Bluetooth Speakers

Bluetooth-speaker demand just keeps on growing, and suppliers keep on introducing new products to keep up.

Sales of portable Bluetooth speakers are surging because of the quantity of music stored on smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. The market kicked into high gear in 2014, when factory-level sales grew 110.9 percent to $812 million, Consumer Technology Association (CTA) statistics show. In 2015, CTA estimates Bluetooth sales grew another 41.5 percent to $1.15 billion. In 2016, the association forecasts dollar growth of 34 percent.

Unit sales are growing even faster.

Bluetooth sales are so significant that in 2014, they exceeded soundbar sales for the first time ($812 million to $643 million), and in 2015, Bluetooth sales of $1.15 billion exceeded soundbar sales of $859 million by an even wider margin.

Bluetooth volume has begun to approach component- audio volume, which hit an estimated $1.8 billion in 2015 (including soundbars). The Bluetooth speaker market in 2015 grew to about half the size of the headphone market, which accounted for $2.2 billion in CTA-estimated factory sales in 2015.

Bluetooth speakers have grown so popular that 32 percent of households in January owned a portable wireless speaker incorporating Bluetooth or similar Apple AirPlay technology, a CTA consumer survey found.

Bluetooth speakers account for a majority of wireless speakers sold, Futuresource Consulting noted. Bluetooth- only speakers accounted for 90 percent of 2015’s $2.7 billion in U.S. retail-level wireless-speaker sales, with another 4 percent of volume coming from dual-technology Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speakers, Future Source said. The remaining volume came from Wi-Fi-only speakers.

The vast majority of Bluetooth speakers are portable AC/DC products that run on batteries when not plugged into a home’s power outlets. Battery-operated Bluetooth speakers accounted for 92 percent of retail-level units sold during the 12 months ending October 2015, The NPD Group said.

Diverse needs: Suppliers don’t expect growth to peter out anytime soon because consumers are buying more than one Bluetooth speaker to meet different needs. Consumers opt for powerful AC-only tabletop models inside the home but might purchase a small AC/DC model that clips onto a backpack for hiking. They might opt for water-resistant and waterproof models for use at the beach or by the pool. Some are designed for the shower and stick on ceramic tiles via a suction cup, and others come with integrated bicycle-handlebar mount.

In 2016, the form factors will continue to tap into diverse use cases. Newcomers include Onkyo.