78% of people say sound quality is top priority for wireless headphones

The report, based on a survey of 4000 smartphone users in the UK and US, reveals that 53% of participants either own or would purchase a pair of true wireless earbuds – earphones without any wires whatsoever, such as the Apple Airpods, Onkyo W800BTs and Motorola Verve Ones+.

Nearly 67% of the US population surveyed (and just under half of the UK sample) would also be interested in a wireless headset that could connect to the internet and provide a voice assistant, in the same vein as the Airpods, which have Siri buil-in. Rumour has it that Google is already working on AirPod-style Assistant-powered headphones.

The report also reveals that despite the desire for innovation, audio performance remains key, with 78% ranking sound quality as the top priority when it comes to choosing a pair of wireless headphones. That's good news in our book.

Qualcomm, the company behind the aptX wireless Bluetooth codec, which promises better quality wireless audio than standard Bluetooth, will hope this hastens the uptake of both wireless audio in general and its latest aptX HD codec. Apple’s removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 has clearly helped put wireless audio further under the spotlight.

We aren't short of more familiar wireless headphones, with the likes of the B&W P7 Wireless on-ears and Bose QuietControl 30 in-ears, already delivering a level of sound quality to rival their wired counterparts.

But we haven’t been bowled over by the sound quality served-up by any of the completely wireless earbuds we’ve tested. And, sound quality aside, the march continues for the improved battery life needed to make them a universally attractive option. (The Airpods offer five hours of playback, while the aforementioned Onkyos last just three from a single charge.)

The bottom line: in the perhaps not-too-distant future, we’ll probably be asking our earbuds to switch playlists and order pizza. Indeed, whether it's in five or 50 years, wired headphones will probably become a thing of the past. But among all of the new and exciting user experience innovations, it's good to see we're all in agreement that sound quality must come first.

Read more:

11 truly wireless alternatives to the Apple Airpods

Apple Airpods review

Best wireless headphones 2017

New Qualcomm chipsets for smart speakers

aptX HD brings 24-bit hi-res audio to your wireless Bluetooth

Qualcomm announces next-generation Snapdragon processors

Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10+ years in the hi-fi industry, she has reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.