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COVID-19 pandemic to fuel wearables, wireless growth in 2022

By Shannon Williams, Wed 29 Dec 2021

2022 will see pandemic-fuelled growth continue for wearables and wireless headsets, according to ABI Research. 

In its new white paper, 70 Technology Trends That Will and Will Not Shape 2022, ABI Research analysts identify 35 trends that will shape the technology market and 35 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, are less likely to move the needle over the next twelve months. 

The fallout from COVID-19 prevention measures, the process of transitioning from pandemic to endemic disease, and global political tensions weigh heavily on the coming years fortunes, the company says.

"This white paper is a tool for our readers to help shape their understanding of the key critical trends that look set to materialise in 2022 as the world begins to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19," says Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research.

"It also highlights those much-vaunted trends that are less likely to have meaningful impact in 2022," he says.

What Will Happen in 2022

Pandemic-Fuelled Growth Will Continue for the Wearables and Wireless Headsets Sectors

According to ABI, with more time being spent at home, the pandemic has seen an uptick in the use of wireless headsets, driven by the need for personalised audio experiences that minimise external distractions and achieve high-quality sound. 

ABI Research forecasts that wireless headset shipments will reach more than 1 billion units in 2026 and will lead the smart accessories market. Demand will be driven further by lower device costs in combination with technological innovations, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Audio, Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML), and built-in sensors that will unlock new use cases and applications. 

True wireless headsets are the most promising wearable category, and upcoming advancements in noise cancellation technology will also enhance the user experience and support a wider range of use cases. 

Moreover, true wireless headsets will become key drivers for the growth/adoption of voice assistants, as voice control becomes the primary user interface for hands-free control of smart devices. 

Other promising headset applications include music therapy that can treat anxiety or sleeping disorders, which becomes more efficient with the expected advancements in spatial sound, noise cancellation, and integration of digital assistants. ABI Research forecasts that global true wireless headset shipments will surpass 600 million units in 2026.

What Wont Happen in 2022

5G mmWave Smartphone Shipments Will Not (Yet) Reach Critical Mass in 2022

After a slow start, mainly limited to the U.S. market, ecosystem momentum for mobile mmWave is gathering pace as a number of regions are targeting deployments, expanding across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, led by operators in the countries of Japan, Russia, Italy, South Korea, and Australia, with China expected to join the roster in early 2022, coinciding with its hosting of the Winter Olympics. 

Even with tangible indicators that mmWave is beginning to appear in greater numbers of smartphone models, now including Apple iPhone Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), and has matured enough to support ultra-thin foldable smartphone designs, it is not expected to hit a critical mass of smartphone shipments in 2022 and will account for less than 5% of global sales.

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