The dominant category within portable players, wireless speakers, was not immune to the pandemic in 2020 and recorded declining demand as discretionary purchases were linked to consumer sentiment and the health of the economy. However, 2021 is predicted to offer an altogether more positive outlook, with wireless speakers expected to fully recover in volume sales terms, although its rate of growth will be significantly slower compared to 2019 when its dynamic performance was driven by smart speaker manufacturers over the review period, resulting in substantial household penetration.
Due to the high penetration and affordability of smartphones in China, e-readers and portable media players are continuing to experience declining demand, as they only offer single functionality. Richness in virtual content provided by mobile apps are aiding the adoption of smartphone entertainment over activities using separate devices.
Wireless speakers is set to continue to be dominated by smart speakers manufacturers in 2021. Even though Tmall Genie (Alibaba Group Holding Ltd), Xiaomi, and Xiaodu (Baidu Inc) all started from the basic screenless model, the three manufacturers have now embarked on different paths.
Despite the less dynamic performance predicted for wireless speakers when compared to the review period, the latter is set to be the only positively growing category within portable players over the forecast period, a trend which will be driven by smart speakers. Sales of e-readers will continue to experience low declining demand; while this type of activity exists in China, it is increasingly served by smartphones or tablets.
Smart speakers (tracked under wireless speakers) are perceived as a key device within the wider smart home context, beyond a pure audio set for music appreciation. Manufacturers need to review their strategies in terms of auditory content, and specific services such as compatibility with smart domestic appliances, in order to earn differentiation and a competitive advantage.
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