What Product Designers are Watching in 2018
Nobody quite has this one right. Sure, we can all point to Apple and their wireless earbuds as top quality aesthetic, but the features just aren’t there yet. Apple’s earbuds are plagued by short battery life, poor Bluetooth signal issues, and a host of other seemingly disparate items that may indicate flaws. The cost isn’t exactly affordable, either.
Other brands are attempting to get on the Bluetooth bandwagon with varying degrees of success. I have seen many products from China come out as well, which I can only assume are the original manufacturers or factory owners that are making many of the brand name products doing their own. That’s a common practice in China, and a problem that plagues many product designers.
China’s outputs usually look fine, are super simple to use, and have a host of next generation features packed in. To top it all off, prices come at a bargain, meaning many more will be able to enjoy these often less ambitiously aesthetic products. And therein lies the rub – and the reason Bluetooth earbuds are top of the list – nobody has created the universally agreed upon best product, so there’s still a lot of room for designers to come in and make waves. Plus, everybody needs new headphones about once per year. Wear and tear and loss are powerful when it comes to products that are relatively costly but necessary.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Hear me out on this: When it comes to the integration of home, work, and play, there are far more innovative products to come. Smart speakers are starting to invade the home, but their utility outside is limited. Portable Bluetooth speakers with waterproof coating and longer battery lives are popping up everywhere, but none are premium enough to replace the home speaker system.
I look at it as a wonderful white space in which a new product can play. High end, beautiful, and well designed with ample audiophile-friendly features, yet integrated into the cloud with modern technology. Think about an Alexa Premium or a Apple Home to go. It’s all about packing in the power of a large home system with the elegance of design, then topping it all off with a rugged usability that won’t get damaged. That’s a tall order, but somebody will figure it out soon.
It’s likely products from China won’t replace the major names in Bluetooth speakers one to one, they may sway people that are considering a lower priced system from the likes of Sony or JBL. The portability and waterproof factors vibe with a significant shift in consumer psychology: the move away from owning things and to having experiences.