The latest Bluetooth® low energy (Bluetooth 5) standard introduced an increased data rate of 2Mbps as demonstrated with the ARM® Cordio® IP in Prithi Ramakrishnan’s blog ‘Bluetooth 5: faster, farther, stronger – And still low power!’. This data rate could allow enhanced quality audio experiences to be delivered with the same ultra low- power envelope that Bluetooth low energy introduced.
The past week’s debates around whether Apple were removing the headphone jack in their latest product have now been put to rest. While many had expressed concern, there is plenty of recent precedent for similar industry disruption.
In 2012 Apple introduced the lightning connector ending almost a decade of the 30-pin connector, and an entire line of audio accessories became obsolete over the coming year. Jawbone captured this moment and rode the market disruption to deliver consumers a new product and experience in audio, the Jambox.
The demise of the headphone jack could herald similar opportunities for the industry. In the short term it is clear that user adoption of wireless headphones will rise. A range of existing Bluetooth products are ready to serve this initial demand, but just as the Jambox fired the starting gun on innovation in wireless speaker design we can expect similar innovations in wireless headphones.
The announcement, described as courageous, may kick-start the industry to deliver smaller in ear wearables that give us the ability to have truly wireless audio. In a few years we are less likely to be talking about the form of the product, and more likely to be looking at the functionality. As the recently announced collaboration between Bragi and IBM shows, the future of the earbud is likely to be about new user experiences. Similar to the film Her, the in-ear personal assistant may be the next development that began with the removal of a decades old physical connector.
Truly wireless earbuds are likely to hit the mainstream. Following innovations by Bragi with the Dash, wireless stereo earbuds are becoming more popular with consumers while long standing brands such as Samsung and Jabra have introduced their own take on the format.
As with most battery powered accessories, we should expect to see smaller, energy-efficient form factors appear on the hearing aid and headphone markets in the future. The Bluetooth 5 enhancements could help to achieve even longer active use and standby time for the user, enabling devices that can be worn with constant connection to your smartphone, for listening to music/audio, or collecting a range of sensor data such as heart rate measurements.
To be able to deliver longer listening time and smaller products, semiconductor companies will need to respond with greater integration in the SoC. ARM is ready to support semiconductor partners with drop-in silicon-proven Bluetooth low energy IP with ARM’s sub-1V Cordio radio IP. This is a key component in delivering further highly integrated in-ear Bluetooth low energy wireless ear bud, and is ideally combined with the uA/MHz power and area optimized Cortex-M4 processor.
Learn more about ARM Cordio IP on www.arm.com/cordio
See also: What's next for headsets?
I have to admit when I looked at the AirPods the first opportunities that came to mind were
AirPods connected to each other by a wire which did nothing for people who wanted the wire so they didn't lose them.
An app which would check the strength of the signal back from the Airpods and could be used to find them when they got lost.
Despite that I do think if it works well it will kickstart a market like you say okay.