Google’s rumored affordable earbuds could capitalize on a growing hearables market

Google appears to have leaked an image of its new Pixel Buds hearables on Twitter, just two weeks ahead of its 2021 I/O conference, according to Gizmodo. The since-deleted tweet was posted by the official Android Twitter account and appears to show a device with the title “Pixel Buds A-Series.” The new image supports an earlier report from 9to5 Google, which claimed Google was working on a more affordable version of its 2020 Pixel Buds ($179) using the same “A” signifier Google used to differentiate its more affordable Pixel phones.

A more affordable Google hearable offering would follow a year of massive growth in the hearables market, especially among mid- and low-priced devices. The wireless hearables market grew a striking 78% year over year (YoY) in 2020, per a recent Counterpoint report. According to the report, that growth was driven in large part by the strong performance of mid- and low-priced wearable options under $100. IDC's Wearables Team research director Ramon T. Llamas recently emphasized that point, saying: “2020 was the year that hearables became the must-have device.” For context, Apple’s AirPods Pro ($250) are considered on the higher end of the price spectrum.

The recent surge in hearables market growth was largely influenced by changing spending habits related to the pandemic. Consumers turned to hearables—especially more affordable options—to improve their remote work and study experiences during the pandemic, per Counterpoint. Counterpoint claims hearables were well-suited to weather demand disruptions during the pandemic since a higher portion of the segment’s sales come through online channels relative to other consumer tech.

The wireless audio market is expected to continue growing this year, leaving room for a new Google offering or other affordable competitors to snag market share. Counterpoint expects the hearables market will continue growing, reaching 33% YoY by the end of 2021, a decline from the standout 2020 year but healthy growth nonetheless. These projections are largely in line with eMarketer’s forecast of the US hearables market, which expects an increase from 124.6 million hearables users in 2021 to 159.1 million by 2024. Counterpoint predicts higher-end hearables will start regaining market share, but not until at least Q3 2021. That leaves ample opportunity for Google and its competitors to cater to the growing low- to mid-priced device market.