Montblanc Debuts $600 Sheepskin Smart Headphones with a Google Assistant Button
Montblanc International has launched a set of smart wireless headphones with in-built access to Google Assistant. The precise, if unimaginatively named MB 01 Smart Headphones mark the luxury brand’s first foray into hearables, part of its continuing expansion into smart wearable devices.
Montblanc’s smart headphones look like luxury items and are aimed at people who travel frequently for business. Built out of silicone and sheepskin on an aluminum frame, they come with a button to turn on awaken Google Assistant and one to turn on active noise cancellation, as well as the usual playback and volume buttons. The earphones fold and the headphones come with their own carrying case. As part of the pitch to travelers, the headphone batteries are supposed to last 20 hours. The company says that the product was developed and produced in-house.
The headphones connect to smartphones through Bluetooth but don’t support voice assistants like Siri or Alexa right now, just Google Assistant. One feature that does stand out is that they support simultaneous connections to two devices at once. Presumably, that means you could toggle between listening to audio played on two different smartphones or a smartphone and a laptop. The smart headphones match Montblanc’s branding in terms of price.
At $600, the headphones are more expensive than even the higher-end smart headphones produced by other companies. Bose smart headphones cost $400 and include the option to use Alexa or Google Assistant, for instance. That cost is on-brand for Montblanc, though. The company’s latest smartwatch, the Summit 2 Plus, costs nearly $1,200, a price only Apple Watches with certain bands can approach and one that has nothing to do with the technological aspect.
Hearing About Hearables
Montblanc’s interest in the hearables market makes sense when considering how fast it’s growing. Gartner estimated late last year that consumers would spend $52 billion on wearable technology, including hearables, in 2020. That’s a 27% jump from the year before. And, as IDC has calculated, hearables make up almost half the volume of all wearables, the single largest category.
The new hearables getting the most attention tend to be true wireless earbuds. Every major voice assistant developer offers or is building their own set. The new Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are designed around Bixby, just as Amazon’s Echo Buds highlight Alexa, and the Google Pixel Buds will use Google Assistant. Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds, meanwhile, aim to integrate with Microsoft’s entire suite of Office365 tools. Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro continue to lead in the hearables market overall, but the proliferation of hearables suggests there’s room for variety. Premium hearables could end up in a market shaped like those of the luxury watch and pen, exactly what Montblanc knows best.