With many organizations switching to a hybrid-style work approach and increasing numbers of employees going remote post the pandemic phase, people are beginning to take sound on their devices more seriously than ever.

smartphone user with wireless headphones on
IMAGE: Qualcomm

Qualcomm, one of the biggest mobile chip makers in the world, released a report last year titled “The State of Sound 2021” that highlighted the factors influencing consumers’ audio purchase decisions and growing areas of interest in the audio space. As per the report, 70% of the surveyed people believed having good sound on their headphones/earphones creates the best mobile experience, 58% said they’re likely to switch to an HD streaming service, 42% reported they use truly wireless earbuds for gaming across different devices, and 52% said they’re seeking either high-resolution or lossless audio quality.

Continuing the tradition, Qualcomm has released a new State of Sound report for 2022 at the Snapdragon Summit 2022. Much like the previous report, this year’s study also observed 6000 smartphone users as participants and focused on examining the factors driving users’ audio device purchases and their interests in the current and future usage scenarios.

Let’s take a closer look at The State of Sound report 2022 and the key takeaways from it.

What Is “The State of Sound Report 2022”?

For the past two years, Qualcomm’s been surveying consumers all over the world on their audio usage and consumer behavior and releasing a summary of the insights in the State of Sound report. The areas and categories for the survey are decided based on the objective and the focus of the research.

For 2022, Qualcomm’s focus of research is based on the growth of the truly wireless earbud category, growing interest in spatial audio, and the importance of lossless and high-res audio quality. A total of 6000 smartphone users in the 18-64 age group from different locations around the globe are a part of this study. And the following are the key findings from the report:

  • Listeners are more driven by audio quality than ever, with 58% of respondents seeking either high-resolution or lossless audio quality
  • Spatial Audio is the next must-have feature for more than half of the respondents
  • True wireless earbuds are becoming integral to mobile gaming
  • Battery life remains a key driver for people buying wireless speakers
  • Consumers are leaning toward Bluetooth LE Audio features like Broadcast audio in their next audio devices
  • Respondents expect to use their audio devices with their hybrid working

What Are the Key Takeaways From “The State of Sound Report 2022”?

The State of Sound Report 2022 sheds light on many important aspects, such as top audio purchase drivers, features that matter to users the most, and several other user behaviors and preferences.

Below is a summary highlighting all the key takeaways from this year’s State of Sound report:

  1. Sound quality has been the most important factor in choosing headphones for the past six years. In 2022, two more factors—price and comfort—join sound quality to become the key factors for people buying a pair of headphones. Likewise, other factors like battery life, size of earbuds, and lossless audio quality were also the key purchase drivers in 2022, as the following image depicts:
    tws and wireless headphone purchase drivers in 2022
    IMAGE: Qualcomm
  2. For true wireless earbuds priced over $50, features like high-resolution audio, spatial audio, noise cancelation, and hearing enhancement have seen a more than 10% increase in demand compared to last year.
  3. When it comes to Bluetooth speakers and smart speakers, battery life is the most significant purchase driver, followed by sound quality, price, and ease of use. This trend is similar to last year’s, indicating that users still seek portability and convenience from Bluetooth speakers.
    smart speaker and bluetooth speaker purchase drivers
    IMAGE: Qualcomm
  4. Besides being a driving force in purchase decisions, audio quality is a valued feature among most consumers buying new audio equipment. The report also suggests that there has been an increased savviness among consumers over the past two years, as now more consumers actively seek better audio quality and don’t mind paying extra for it.

    Similarly, when surveyed on which sound quality levels they would prioritize when shopping for a new audio device, more people than ever chose lossless and CD-quality audio, with around two-thirds of respondents suggesting they’d seek higher than MP3 audio quality.

    sound quality attitude worldwide
    IMAGE: Qualcomm
  5. Spatial audio is the second most desired feature for audio devices among consumers after lossless audio. Part of the reason behind this is the increased awareness and users becoming more knowledgeable about the technology.
    According to the report, among the group of respondents, 41% said they’d pay extra for spatial audio on their next true wireless earbuds purchase, all of this despite the fact that spatial audio hasn’t matured as much yet and isn’t fully utilized.
  6. True wireless earbuds stand third—after the smartphone’s built-in speaker and TV’s built-in speaker—when it comes to consumers’ preference for listening to audio every day.
  7. The true wireless earbud category continues to be a high-growth category in the consumer audio space. As per the State of Sound Report 2022, 41% of respondents said they own truly wireless earbuds, while 20% said they plan on buying one within one year. Similarly, more than 24% of respondents intend to buy an on-ear or over-the-ear wireless headset next.
    consumer adoption of electronic devices
    IMAGE: Qualcomm

    Features like active noise cancelation, lossless audio, context awareness, and spatial audio remain the most requested ones among those interested in true wireless earbuds.

  8. Many consumers from the test group also reacted positively and showed interest in Bluetooth LE Audio.Considering the technology isn’t widely available, this is quite a high number. But, thanks to features like broadcasting to multiple devices (for a shared audio experience) and location-based audio sharing at different venues, it has attracted the most attention among consumers.
  9. Despite being an influential purchase factor for many people, ANC still needs improvements. Rapid battery drain, undesired noise/hissing, poor filtering of high-pitched noise, and improper fit are some of the areas where many consumers have reported facing issues while using ANC on their earbuds.
    problems consumer face when using anc
    IMAGE: Qualcomm
  10. Wireless headphones remain the preferred audio accessory to play games for 33% of consumers, followed by true wireless earbuds at 31% and wired headphones at 28%.

Sound Literacy Is Increasing! And That’s a Good Sign

Sound, whether it be in music or voice, has become more important to people over the past couple of years. And Qualcomm’s reports in the past two years are a testament to it.

While last year’s report showed user behaviors and preferences in areas like true wireless earbuds, audio accessory use for gaming, and the impact of sound on remote working, The State of Sound report 2022 shows how users are taking sound more seriously through their growing interests in advanced features like spatial audio and the lossless and high-resolution audio quality, hinting toward an increasing sound literacy, which is a positive sign for consumer interest in audio in the future.

Disclosure: Our Editor is in Hawaii on Qualcomm’s invite to attend the Snapdragon Summit 2022.

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