Nuheara Launches IQbuds MAX Hearables at CES 2020 a Premium Solution With a Different Approach Than AirPods Pro
Nuheara used CES 2020 to launch its new IQbuds MAX, the latest update to a product line of smart hearables products for on-the-go consumers. Nuheara is viewed by many as a pioneer in the hearables market and among the first companies to include active noise cancellation in truly wireless earbuds that also have voice assistant access.
Different Than AirPods Pro
It is notable that Apple AirPods Pro also includes active noise cancelation and that is different than active noise reduction which is a feature of the new Amazon Echo Buds. Other wireless earbuds such as earlier editions of AirPods, Google’s Pixel Buds, and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds don’t claim any noise reduction technology. As a result, many people see Nuheara as in direct competition with Apple. David Cannington, EVP and co-founder of Nuheara, sees it differently. In an interview with Voicebot at CES, he said:
“IQbuds MAX, which is the product we are launching this year at CES, is taking the hearables tech to a whole new level. Firstly, it’s got active noise cancelation…we basically rebuilt the product from the ground up — new industrial design, new battery, new chips, new speakers…We know hearables. We’ve been at this a long time and we’d put this up against anything out there now.
“We don’t compete against Airpods Pro. Really, our product is designed for people that have certain hearing challenges. They don’t want to buy a hearing aid. They want to augment their hearing. Then we’ve got…tech addicts. You want the latest and the greatest. You want the best truly wireless form factor…If we can help you with your hearing, that’s a big bonus…We are carving out a very lucrative niche on our own in this space…We allow you to control your soundscape.”
Sound Augmentation and Personalization
At $249, AirPods Pro are more expensive than most wireless earbuds in the market. Nuheara IQbuds MAX hit an even higher price point of $399. This seems like a big premium over AirPods, but Cannington says this is the wrong comparison for most consumers. “A consumer buys for value,” said Cannington. He stresses that active noise cancelation is a big feature for AirPods, but just one of many for Nuheara. Personalization features tied to Nuheara’s mobile app, “calibrate the buds to their personal hearing profile,” and can implement Situational Sound that allows the user to focus in on one person that is talking in a noisy environment and set different levels of outside noise affordance.
And, compared to hearing aids, $399 might well be a bargain. A White House commission in 2015 said that the average price of a hearing aid was $2,300 and it hasn’t changed much in recent years. Consumers are typically paying between $1,500 – $3,500 according to Audicus and some premium hearing aids cost upwards of $6,000. Cannington didn’t claim Nuheara makes hearing aids but rather its technology includes sound augmentation that can be a bridge between the need for some amplification that helps with minor hearing loss but doesn’t yet rise to a level that necessitates a prescription hearing aid.
Nuheara also has the added advantage of being able to connect to multiple voice assistants. While AirPods Pro only offers Siri access today, IQbuds MAX also offers Siri along with Google Assistant. Cannington sees voice assistant access as critical to the future of the hearables segment. In addition, providing multiple choices is something that the big players are not likely to enable anytime soon.
Hearables is a Fast Growing and Increasingly Diverse Market
IDC reported in September 2019 that hearables represented the largest wearables device category in Q2 2019, representing nearly 47% of unit volume. That represented 250% growth over the previous year’s second quarter.
There is little doubt that the segment is growing quickly and we are seeing faster innovation cycles. What Nuheara helps crystalize is that there is a difference between wireless hearables offerings today. Just as we have entry-level and premium segments for smart speakers, we are now seeing a similar spectrum of offerings in the wireless hearables market.