Jabra, the Denmark-based audio company, has launched its latest true wireless earbuds in India. Called Jabra Elite 75t, the TWS earbuds replace the critically acclaimed Elite 65t. The audio brand of GN Group, had first showcased the device at IFA 2019 in September. It went on sale globally around October and the company is now making it available in India as well. The Elite 75t competes against the likes of Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3 (not launched in India) and Sennheiser Momentum Wireless in the premium true wireless earbuds segment. Its predecessor, the Elite 65t was widely acclaimed as the best true wireless earbuds that work across Android and iOS. The Elite 75t has some really big shoes to fill.
Ahead of the launch today, BGR India had a conversation with Amitesh Punhani, Country Marketing Manager, India and SAARC at Jabra. We spoke about the true wireless earbuds market, the challenge from makers of budget true wireless earbuds and appealing to audiophiles. Punhani also told us that Elite 75t are premium true wireless earbuds designed basis feedback from Elite 65t users. He says the new TWS earbuds bring superior comfort and longer battery life. Here is an excerpt from the interview, lightly edited for clarity.
Q. Realme Buds Air is set to launch with wireless charging and budget price. They want to bundle a lot of features at a cheap price. What is your take on that entire segment featuring brands like Noise, boAt and others?
Amitesh: There will always be brands which would actually go into the affordable segment of the market or say the segment which is Rs 5,000. The audio market will work similar to marketplace for Android smartphones, which starts from Rs 5,000 and goes all the way up to Rs 40,000. The difference will basically come down to experience.
We took a survey of what really matters to people, when they actually look for true wireless headsets or over-the-ear headsets. Two things came out very strongly. One was obviously the battery life and the other was comfort, which was very high on everybody’s minds. People are using these headsets a lot to consume music and watch online content. So comfort and battery life is very high on their priority list. At Jabra, our motto is to ensure that we give the best product experience to our users at the price. And we will always be putting the product quality on the higher turf than the price.
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Q. Jabra announced Elite 75t at IFA 2019 and it became available in western markets around October. Considering India is a focus market, what caused the delay in launch to December?
A: When we launched the Elite 75t at IFA, it was received with great euphoria. Hence, we immediately looked at manufacturing the devices, managing the supply chain, and created a way to ensure that in whichever country the product is launched, our consumers can get their hands on it.
Q. As you said before, the focus has been on battery life and comfortable fit. What was the feedback from 65t users that helped design the 75t?
A: We received two feedback for improvement. One obviously was the battery life. Our customers really want high battery life. Everything is now connected, whether it’s your smartwatch, smartphone or an audio headset. They don’t want another product that they need to charge everyday or every other day. It became our number one priority to ensure long battery life on the Jabra Elite 75t.
The second part was comfort. Nowadays people really like the idea of having a true wireless. They are always on the go. So they like the idea of true wireless considering it is so convenient. If you look at Jabra, it has a history of hearing, where we also create hearing aids and we understand human ear. So, we are able to create a product with great fit, has the ability to block external noise and is not uncomfortable during prolonged use.
Q. What is the battery life out of the earbuds alone and that with the charging case?
A: It is 7.5 hours in the buds and overall charging case plus buds is 28 hours. We have managed to reduce the product size and yet has a high battery life. So we consider it a major improvement.
Q. IFA has evolved a lot in the past few years and this year, true wireless earbuds as a segment was dominant. Where do you see the entire true wireless as a segment and how big can it get?
A: Overall, if you look at Bluetooth wireless headset market in the world, it is going to grow at a rate of 10 to 11 percent CAGR till 2025. The market was $7 billion last year and it’s going to reach $14 billion in 2025. If you look at the true wireless market, it is projected to grow by 90 percent in 2020. So, it is going to outpace the Bluetooth wireless headset market significantly.
Q. When the first set of true wireless earbuds launched, people used them for convenience but relied on over-the-ear headphones for flights. Do you see new generation of TWS earbuds replacing devices like your own Jabra 85h as primary listening device?
A: I think it depends on product fit and comfort level. We have been able to create a product which actually fits into the ear perfectly. It remains to be seen if the market is able to capitalize on that. I see some segment of people shifting towards true wireless in the aircraft as well. But broadly people don’t find them to be as convenient to use for 10 hours. I see the lack of comfortable design and good passive noise cancellation as the reason holding it back.
Q. Coming to the 75t, there are two things that seem to be missing. One is wireless charging and another one is noise cancellation. Can you explain the reason why you decided to ditch these key features?
A: We have given 28 hours of battery life and it takes 2-2.5 hours to fully charge it. We excluded wireless charging because it would have meant addition of extra hardware. From a consumer point of view, we thought longer battery life negates the need for wireless charging. Secondly, we don’t offer active noise cancellation with these buds because these are just 5.5 grams on each side. This makes them extremely light.
We do have active noise cancellation, which actually cancels the ambient noise so that you can listen properly. And believe me once you actually try the Elite 75t, you will realize that the fit is so good, that you don’t listen to anything outside. When I go for a run at night, I have to start hear through because I don’t hear anything outside. We chose lightweight design over inclusion of ANC and our passive noise cancellation is good for most consumers.
Q. Once Elite 75t becomes available in the market, will you continue to sell 65t at a discounted price or discontinue the product?
A: No, we will continue the Elite 65t and it has been our best seller. Since its launch last year, the Elite 65t has been widely reviewed and accepted as a product across the world. And we are going to definitely keep selling it. The Rs 9,999 was a promotional price and if you look right now, it would be Rs 11,999. So, we will continue selling 65t and like I said before, we will never compromise the quality of the product. If we are able to give product at a lower price, we will definitely do. Now, we have a great product in Elite 65t and obviously the pricing adjustment comes into the picture as soon as the new product goes on sale. We will continue to offer it for Rs 11,999 and further discounts have not been finalized.
Q. While these wireless and true wireless earbuds are catching up in a big way, they are still not accepted by audiophiles. Do you think the industry should innovate to build better driver to match the performance of audiophile-grade headphones?
A: Audiophiles look for specific features while purchasing earphones that can enhance the experience of music listening to its truest form. Whereas, the wireless earphones are used by consumers who expect comfort, power packed battery life, and good music quality, whether they are at work or travelling or listening to music or just making calls.
Q. How did Elite 85h do in the market where the competition from Sony, Bose and Sennheiser has been a major challenge? Also what do you have in store for the next two quarters?
A: The Elite 85h has done quite well in the market. We have received very positive feedback for the device. This is our first over-the-ear headphones in the market, and it is up against already established brands. In that sense, it has surpassed our expectations. We are really happy with the performance and as far as next year is concerned, we will have more announcements at CES 2020. India is one of the focus countries right now and the idea is to launch devices sooner than later.