Skip to main

Smart Earphone Features: Innovations Across the Industry

by Luiza Stelitano

Smart Earphone Features: Innovations Across the Industry

Sony's Walkman transformed the music industry in 1979 – and turned earphones from a workplace technology into the original "wearable." 

Since then, earphones have become ubiquitous worldwide, enabling anyone to step into their own private ambient space. Earphone tech has seen rapid innovation over the past few years, and there's no sign of a slowdown anytime soon.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the evolution of earphone technology, and the three most interesting examples of innovative smart features that are reshaping the industry. 

Copy link
Modern earphone tech: the background

The advent of Bluetooth in 1999 paved the way for the first wireless headphones using the technology just five years later, in 2004. By the end of the 2000s, releases from industry giants such as Bose helped to bring wireless headphone technology into vogue. 

Check out or work for Bose here >>

The 2010s brought several innovations. Planar magnetic drivers started to become mass-market, giving the people who use them a higher-quality sound experience without electronic and audio distortions. Noise-canceling technologies gained popularity and made it possible to block out any ambient sound.

But smart earphone features go beyond what your standard audio devices are capable of.

They are most often wireless and are capable of connecting to other devices, like a smartphone or laptop, through Bluetooth. Aside from providing users with an enhanced audio experience, smart earphones help to complete various tasks, without needing to reach for the device they’re connected to. 

Copy link
State-of-the-art examples of smart earphone features

Smart earphones aren’t just your usual audio devices – but what exactly can they do? 

Let’s examine three examples from the world’s top brands, and check some of the most interesting features that the industry has in store. 

#1. Personalized Spatial Audio – Apple AirPods

Apple AirPods have become ubiquitous since their launch in 2017, even despite initial doubts about the design.

While the company's 2001 earbuds still featured a white cord, the AirPods use Bluetooth to create a unique listening experience. The AirPods have a couple of interesting smart features, including the one made available in iOS 16: personalized spatial audio

How does it work? Spatial audio is a 360-degree sound field that recreates a surround sound effect. Personalized spatial audio adds even more to it: meant to provide a higher level of immersion in audio and visual media, the technology works by customizing the way audio is played and adjusting it to the ear position and the geometry of the head. 

Apple states that the feature currently works on the AirPods (3rd gen), ​​AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd gen), AirPods Max, and Beats Fit Pro.

#2. Live translation – Google Pixel Buds

Google Pixel Buds are the tech giant’s direct response to the Apple AirPods. 

While they may lack the audio breakthroughs of Apple AirPods, the Pixel Buds come with many useful smart features, including a very handy connection to the virtual assistant

You only need to set up touch controls on the buds or just say “Hey Google”, and you’ll be able to access Google Assistant and its features. The earbuds will also play a short sound when you receive a notification – like a new event in your calendar, for example. 

But what really makes Google Pixel Buds stand out is the ability to use live translation with the help of Google Translate conversation mode. It will automatically translate what you're saying for the other person to read, while also translating what the person says directly into your earbuds – the easiest way yet to communicate in a foreign language.

#3 Speak to Chat – Sony LinkBuds

The very first thing that catches the attention when it comes to Sony LinkBuds is the design – with the shape of an open ring, they stand out from other similar products. 

But the LinkBuds aren’t about the look only. They come with 360 Reality Audio, an impressive voice reduction algorithm developed using ML, and what Sony calls Precise Voice Pickup, which enables the person you’re talking to hear you clearly, regardless of noisy environments.

In terms of convenience, the Speak to Chat feature is one of the most impressive solutions. When the feature is activated, the LinkBuds will pause the audio whenever they detect you’re speaking to someone, and activate ambient sound mode automatically. 

With speak-to-chat enabled, you won’t need to activate it manually or take the LinkBuds off whenever you start a conversation. When you’re done talking, the ambient sound mode will also be exited automatically. It’s a simple, and yet very clever solution. 

Copy link
The bottom line

The audio space has been rapidly evolving over the past few years, and there’s still much to look forward to. From new high-fidelity sensors to innovative software, earphones are quickly transitioning from audio equipment into wearable (the so-called ‘hearables’) technology.

If you plan to develop a one-of-a-kind audio device equipped with smart features, Intent is here to help you: we have extensive experience in development for connected devices, including such brands as Oura or Bose. Don’t hesitate to contact us!


Related Articles