Key findings from our ‘Comfortable, Smart, High-performing Earbuds Survey’: users from around the world want comfort, ANC, long battery life & more.

When we polled more than 2000 consumers in major global markets recently on their use of earbuds, we gathered some interesting results.

While audio earbuds have become part of everyday life for consumers around the world, little data has been available on how people interact with their earbuds, their preferences, and the features and functionality they would like to see in future models. With audio OEMs in a continuous race to deliver innovative solutions, we felt it was important to learn more about how consumers use their earbuds and what consumers want and need in these everyday devices.

Our survey reached consumers across Europe, the U.S. and China on more than a dozen subjects relating to earbuds – from form, fit and function to the importance of long battery life.  

Now, we are sharing our findings with the OEMs who will be shaping the next generation of loose-fit and tight-fit earbuds. Read our recently published press releases for OEMs and consumers.  We have created a ‘Comfortable, Smart, High-performing Earbuds Survey’ eBook that details how users enjoy their earbuds today, points of differentiation between earbuds, and advances in earbud technology that interest them.

One of our survey’s top findings is that consumers want a say in earbud innovation. Some of their priorities include the following:

  • A comfortable, yet secure fit

  • Innovations including volume-limiting technology that will protect their ears from hearing loss

  • Technology that will help them remain aware of their surroundings when traveling, exercising, relaxing, or working

  • Long battery life in both the buds and charging case

Making good use of earbuds

As anticipated, listening to music was the top use of earbuds across all regions, followed by sports/exercise, voice calls and gaming. Consumers participating in the survey said they may use different types of earbuds for different activities. For example, about 45% of respondents revealed they use tight-fitting, in-ear earbuds because they are perceived to stay in place and feel more secure when exercising. However, consumers also noted tight-fitting earbuds are not comfortable for extended periods or they do not fit correctly (almost half of the respondents across all regions surveyed). Respondents also reported that tight-fitting earbuds can make them feel less aware of their surroundings and that they hear their own footfalls when wearing them – particularly during exercise.

Those problems are remedied with the loose-fit earbuds which have active noise cancellation technology. In addition to being more comfortable than tight-fit earbuds, users said the ability to hear necessary surrounding noise and activity was important.



Bring on the Innovation

When polled on the most interesting emerging earbud technologies, the top-cited item was volume-limiting technology to prevent hearing loss or damage (56%). Consumers also agreed that they want more 3D or spatial sound options. The ability to listen at high volume without distortion (mostly for gaming) was important to consumers in China (50%) but less so in the US (31%) and Europe (19%).

OEM tips

One problem OEMs can solve for tight-fit earbud users is the complete filling of the ear canal. Some users of tight-fit earbuds noted they often cannot hear themselves in a natural way during voice calls and they block out too much surrounding noise, such as approaching vehicles, or the direction where the sound is coming from.

Additionally, OEMs building devices with longer battery life may fare better than competitors. Almost half of the respondents across all regions agreed acceptable battery life must be at least five hours. One third said they prefer battery life of over eight and up to 24 hours.

Competitive global marketplace

The market for portable audio technologies is dynamic and growing fast. With users demanding more innovation and comfort, low power consumption, and earbud attributes that go beyond sound, audio manufacturers face some interesting challenges. They are in a continuous race to deliver differentiated solutions. The key is finding a partner that offers the innovative technologies customers want, like high quality digital ANC, so users ‘can hear what they want to hear’. ams is that partner.

Partnering with ams

ams audio sensing technologies, such as Digital Augmented Hearing for high-performing active noise cancellation (ANC) for all types of headphones and earbuds, is used by manufactures around the world to give customers differentiated audio benefits. For example, real time adaptation enables ANC on loose-fit ear-buds, allows use of a smaller speaker on closed-fit designs, and always delivers the best performance on over-ear designs – even if you wear eye-glasses or prefer a loose fit.

Learn more about ams audio sensing technologies.