Music. Podcasts. TV. Weather updates. A reminder of your terrible demeanor.
One of those things you don’t expect from your AirPods, but get ready – or sit up straight. New documents received by the Wall Street Journal betray Apple is researching how its hugely successful Bluetooth earbuds can be turned into health devices that act as hearing aids, measure your body temperature and – yes – tell you that you’re going to regret what you’re doing with your back in that chair right now.
The hearing aid function could open up a particularly lucrative customer base for the company, especially as the regulatory authorities are clearing the way for new players.
Heavy clearing (regulators)
The global Bluetooth headset market is on the verge of an Apple loan. AirPods had estimated sales of $ 12.8 billion last year – five times more than runner-up rival Bose. But the tech giant can’t just break into the sales of hearing aids because the FDA still says these devices must be handed out by licensed specialists who can tailor them to each user. That could change very quickly.
Congress passed bill in 2017 to create a new category for over-the-counter hearing aids, and the FDA is expected to lay the groundwork for it by the end of the year – potentially that could create a sizable new market for Apple and its headphone-guzzling counterparts:
- According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, 28 million people in the US have mild hearing loss, but only 5% use hearing aids. Twelve million more have moderate hearing loss, 37% of whom wear hearing aids.
- The US hearing aid market is dominated by a few companies – like Cochlear and Sonova – that charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the devices. Cheaper, over-the-counter options could turn millions of objecters into consumers.
How would it work ?: Apple’s earbuds already come with motion sensors that can detect your sloppy posture, as well as microphones, amplifiers, and high-end processors. The only supplement they need for the new health functions is a thermometer, which the company makes already design for the Apple Watch. It just shows what can be achieved with a will and an R&D budget of $ 18.75 billion.