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Why Bluetooth Headset Sales Are Booming

August 24, 2017, 4:10 PM UTC

People will snap up more smart, wearable devices this year, led by the growth not of watches or glasses but by Bluetooth wireless headphones, an analyst firm said on Thursday.

Bluetooth headset sales will jump 17% to 150 million this year, rising to 206 million by 2021, market tracker Gartner predicted. Feeding the trend are smartphone makers following in Apple’s footsteps by eliminating the headphone jack for standard, wired earphones.

“By 2021, we assume that almost all premium mobile phones will no longer have the 3.5 mm jack,” Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

Apple provoked a huge outcry when it released the iPhone 7 last year without the ubiquitous connection point, but sales were unaffected and other manufacturers are following. Eliminating the jack creates more room inside the phone for other features, like a larger battery, but it requires owners to use an adapter cable or wireless headphones. And Apple has benefited from booming sales of its own wireless earpod, Airpods.

Overall, the wearables market will expand 17% in units shipped to 310 million devices, Gartner said. That will generate total revenue of $30.5 billion.

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Rising sales of more expensive smartwatches won’t make as big an impact on the number of wearables sold, but it will constitute almost one-third of the total revenue from all wearables. Sales of almost 42 million smartwatches, up from 35 million last year, will bring in $9.3 billion in 2017.

Apple (AAPL) will stay in the lead, bolstered by new smartwatch models that are expected to have their own wireless connections, Luxury fashion brands like Movado and LVMH’s Hublot, and TAG Heuer, which have partnered with Google (GOOGL) to launch their own high-end smartwatches, will grab a growing share of the market, Gartner said.

Other tech players like Huawei, Samsung, and Sony will remain on the fringes, the firm projected. Fitness tracker market leader Fitbit (FIT) is also expected to unveil its first true smartwatch soon in time for the holiday shopping season.

Head-mounted displays used for virtual reality apps will grow about 38% to 22 million units, Gartner said. But the devices are hardly a mainstream consumer item. “The market is still in its infancy, not that it lacks longer-term potential,” McIntyre said.