|Apple's AirPods Pro wireless in-ear headphones / Courtesy of Apple Korea|
Samsung and LG are eyeing the micro battery market for wireless ear buds, as models evolve and demand for the devices grows. While EV batteries are their main business, the companies are also seeking to capture opportunities in the growing market for wireless listening device batteries.
Two types of micro batteries are currently being used for wireless ear buds ― the cylindrical and coin cell, also known as button cells for its flat round form. The cylindrical battery has been used in Apple's AirPods models, but the electronics giant switched to the coin cell for its AirPods Pro model.
Electronic gadget makers are seen to be opting for coin cells because they allow for a more diverse range of designs as opposed to the cylindrical type which typically fits into the stem of the headphones.
Samsung SDI is also using the coin cell battery for its Galaxy Buds models, including Galaxy Buds Plus and Galaxy Buds Live. The battery maker stated in July in a conference call on its performance for the second quarter that it started supplying its coin batteries in the latter half of the year and that it would expand supplies starting from 2021 after securing additional clients. Samsung is currently only producing locally.
A Samsung SDI official said "We are keenly observing the micro battery market for wireless hearables."
The market for coin cells for wireless headsets is led by the German battery maker Varta. Varta supplies cells for Apple AirPods and is also known to be the main supplier for Samsung's wireless headphones.
Samsung and Varta engaged in a skirmish last year over what the latter claimed was Samsung's violation of patents as it incorporated batteries of Chinese suppliers into its wireless headsets. Varta filed a suit against Samsung Electronics in Germany, but the German manufacturer dropped the suit in August. The two have signed a long-term contract for Varta to supply wireless headset batteries.
Battery makers are keeping a keen eye on the micro batteries market for wireless speaker devices as it looks set to grow. Analysts project the market for wireless earphone batteries will reach 1.2 billion cells in 2025, up 26 percent from 300 million in 2019.
LG Energy Solution in the meantime has only produced the cylindrical battery, which is known to have been used in AirPods 1 and 2. The battery maker is estimated to take up a large part of the share for cylindrical cells, but figures were not available.
Given wireless headset models continue to evolve and are increasingly switching to the coin cell, LG appears to be reviewing the production of this battery type.
"The coin cell business is currently under review," an LG Energy Solution official said.