It has been on the cards since AirPlay and the new Lightning connector, but I predict that 2014 will be the year that marks the end of the speaker dock as we have come to know it, and there are several facts to back it up.
It’s about more than Apple
While portable digital audio for years was heavily dominated by Apple devices, these days the landscape is very different. Global data indicates that Android is dominating the smartphone market with an 80% global marketshare, and the speaker dock as we know it is an Apple only device, and with the introduction of the Lightning connector, that changed to be a dual support function as well.
The changing smartphone and tablet landscape also means that more and more homes are cross device dependent, so new audio systems need to be multi-compatible, making the traditional speaker dock redundant. Supporting multiple docking solutions becomes an unnecessary cost for audio manufacturers, leaving them to focus on future, a wireless future.
It’s all about wireless
Wireless audio systems have been flooding the market in the recent year, and it’s a trend that continued at CES 2014, with more and more wireless speaker systems supporting multiple streaming platforms, including more and more high-def audio.
The changing audio device landscape combined with new streaming technologies has resulted in docking no longer being a requirement. Whether you are using an iOS device or an Android based device, both supports Bluetooth streaming, with some of them also supporting AptX for a higher quality bluetooth streaming. In addition a lot of the non-Apple devices can now stream to AirPlay speakers using third party apps.
As mentioned we are also seeing sound systems supporting multiple streaming options, including DLNA, AptX, Bluetooth, AirPlay, AllShare and more. Technology is moving us towards not only sound systems that can support pretty much any device out there, wirelessly, but also towards digital high-def audio, removing the long standing barrier for the many that could not stand the compressed sound of a Bluetooth speaker.
CES 2014 showed us that manufacturers are focused on wireless audio, not on physical docking of devices. While not attending the show floor, I struggled to find much information about devices that supported physical docking of devices, even for Lightning docks. There were a few bedroom style alarm clock docks, supporting wake up functions alongside charging your iOS device, but even those are likely going to be far and few between over the next year compared to wireless audio devices.
2014 is the year of the cross device wireless audio system!
[image source: DigitalTrends]