For decades, Qualcomm technologies have helped transform how the world connects, computes, and communicates. Qualcomm audio solutions support a wide range of customers around the globe, helping them develop new waves of high-performing, feature-differentiated audio products.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with James Chapman, Qualcomm’s vice president and general manager of voice, music, and wearables, on the impact Bluetooth® technology has had on the audio and entertainment market. Chapman says that consumers have reaped the rewards in recent years as we’ve seen more and more audio and connectivity technology breakthroughs.
“Of the thousands of consumers surveyed worldwide as part of our Annual State of Play report, two-thirds believe that wireless audio devices now deliver equal or better audio quality compared to wired products,” said Chapman. “This illustrates a dramatic attitude shift driven by technology improvements and presents a massive opportunity for audio device manufacturers.”
Q&A with James Chapman
Why has Bluetooth audio had such staying power over the years?
Since its inception, Bluetooth® technology and standards have constantly evolved so that the consumer experience is always improving. Part of what makes Bluetooth technology so special is the collaboration and investment from numerous different manufacturers and industry experts who have all contributed to the continuous improvement of the technology over the years.
Qualcomm TrueWireless™ Stereo technology was one of the first technologies designed to stream sound over the Bluetooth radio to completely wire-free earbuds, and it helped our customers create an entirely new category of devices. Technologies like Qualcomm® aptX™ audio technology have also helped to redefine the wireless listening experience by delivering 24-bit audio over Bluetooth connectivity, combined with lower latency for gaming and video applications and improved overall robustness even in the busiest of RF environments. A final factor in the success of Bluetooth technology has to be improvements in power consumption on audio SoCs. We’re getting to a point where battery life will soon be measured in days, not hours.
I think that we have reached a tipping point in the adoption of Bluetooth audio devices. Bluetooth has enabled total freedom of communication, allowing us to consume audio on the go without the need to have our mobile devices held up to our ears. For example, on my commute to work this morning I was able to pop my truly wireless earbuds in my ear and listen to my favorite podcast, and when a call from a colleague came through, I was able to answer it without even having to take my phone out of my pocket. I’m now able to have an immersive experience but can still be easily interrupted if something is important. I can also switch seamlessly between listening to my podcast, making a voice call, or using my voice assistant to check the train timetable. In a way, Bluetooth technology makes our lives a little easier – we use our audio devices more throughout the day at home, at work, and on the go.
What was Qualcomm’s role in the development of the LE Audio specifications?
Our standards team has worked closely with the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) to help define the new specification for LE Audio, chairing working groups within the Bluetooth SIG and working with others to create the interoperable specification that’s needed. We’ve been working with and driving innovations in Bluetooth® connectivity for many years, and we can’t wait to help our customers build devices with these new capabilities.
What has you most excited about LE Audio?
I’m very excited to see a number of use cases take advantage of new capabilities, such as Auracast™ broadcast audio, that, until now, we’ve had to enable in a proprietary way but are now becoming standardized. The introduction of new Auracast™ experiences across all of the product categories we support on source devices — such as phones, tablets, watches, and sink devices like headsets and speakers — will help our customers build products that can change the way we connect with each other and experience the world around us.