The Rapid Growth of Bluetooth Speakers

Bluetooth speakers have become one of the fastest growing segments in consumer audio technology over the past decade. Thanks to their wireless connectivity, portable size, and declining prices, Bluetooth speakers have moved from a niche product to a mainstreammust-have. Their popularity and sales growth show no signs of slowing down.

Just 10 years ago, Bluetooth speakers were bulky, expensive, and not very common. The technology was still in its infancy and early Bluetooth speakers suffered from short battery life, spotty wireless connections, and less-than-stellar sound quality. How things have changed. Today’s Bluetooth speakers are sleek, compact, affordable, and able to deliver room-filling stereo sound, with some models even offering 360-degree omnidirectional audio.

Recent sales numbers and industry reports paint a picture of the Bluetooth speaker category’s explosive rise. According to the NPD Group, U.S. sales of wireless speakers more than doubled from $216 million in 2012 to over $500 million in 2015. Market research firm GfK reported that dollar sales of Bluetooth speakers jumped 97% in the first half of 2016 versus the same period in 2015. And Futuresource Consulting forecasts that 165 million Bluetooth speakers will ship globally in 2022, up from just 12 million units in 2012.

Several factors have fueled the rapid adoption of Bluetooth speakers in the mass market. Most importantly, the technology inside Bluetooth speakers has improved tremendously. Today’s speakers use higher bandwidth Bluetooth for faster pairing and steadier wireless connections, advanced audio processors and Class D amplifiers for fuller sound, and large-capacity lithium-ion batteries for up to 20 hours of continuous playtime. The latest speakers also come equipped with smart features like built-in voice assistants, speakerphone capabilities for calls, and robust companion apps.

At the same time, prices for Bluetooth speakers have come down dramatically thanks to economies of scale and cutthroat competition amongst brands. With major players like Bose, JBL, Sony and UE battling hundreds of smaller companies, consumers have benefited from constant deal-cutting and price wars, with 70% of Bluetooth speakers now costing under $100. Five years ago, decent wireless speakers cost two or three times more. This new affordability has been key to attracting mainstream shoppers.

Of course, the very nature of Bluetooth speakers matches up well with today’s on-the-go digital lifestyles. Their compact size and wireless functionality allow people to enjoy music anywhere without being tethered to a stereo system. People can easily bring portable Bluetooth speakers to parties, BBQs, camping trips, and a myriad of other occasions. Some new speaker models are small enough to fit in your pocket.

Younger demographics in particular have embraced Bluetooth speakers for their spontaneity and shareability. Market research shows that millennials account for the biggest ownership and purchasing of Bluetooth speakers by far. Younger consumers love being able to spontaneously set up an impromptu dance party at a moment’s notice. They also appreciate being able to grant a group of friends wireless access to the speaker so that everyone can take turns DJing.

Going forward, industry analysts expect the Bluetooth speaker boom to continue unabated, as newer streaming technologies arrive to augment Bluetooth. Speakers equipped with Wi-Fi and smart assistants like Amazon Alexa are gaining popularity, opening up more audio options like internet radio and hands-free voice control. And the next big wireless standard, Bluetooth 5, promises twice the speed and four times the range of the current Bluetooth 4.2 spec, meaning fewer dropouts and interruptions.

For now, Bluetooth remains the simplest and most universal wireless audio standard, ensuring ongoing demand. As connectivity keeps improving and prices keep dropping, there is still so much room for growth in the Bluetooth speaker market. These portable wireless devices have already become a mainstay of today’s music listening habits. And their presence will only grow more ubiquitous in the years ahead.