While GN ReSound and Starkey introduced Made for iPhone hearing aids, a third member of the “Big Six” fraternity of leading global hearing aid makers, Oticon, has opted for a different approach.
Instead of introducing a new hearing aid, Oticon’s new Made for iPhone ConnectLine Streamer Pro 1.2 and ConnectLine App will enable all of the wireless hearing aids it has sold since 2007 to synch up with Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.
At first glance, Oticon’s decision to put its Made for iPhone technology into a streamer that must be worn around the neck might seem like a competitive disadvantage. A big selling point of the Starkey and GN ReSound iPhone hearing aids is their ability to receive low-power Bluetooth wireless audio transmission directly from the Apple devices, without requiring a cumbersome intermediary streaming device.
But Oticon is playing up a different market advantage by making its entire installed base of wireless hearing aids — which the Denmark company says is now more than two million users worldwide — compatible with Apple. That’s an immediate benefit to Oticon’s entire customer base, whereas only the relatively few new Starkey and GN ReSound customers who ante up for the new premium iPhone hearing aids will get the same benefit.
It’s a smart strategy for a company playing catch-up with GN ReSound, which has had a lead in 2.4 gigahertz wireless technology for the past several years. Starkey decided to try to catch up quickly, and initial reports on its new Made for iPhone Halo hearing aids make it clear the Minnesota company is closing the gap with a product that, feature-by-feature, should be competitive with the new GN ReSound hearing aids.
Oticon, on the other hand, decided to beef up its streamer rather than eliminate it. When the Streamer Pro 1.2 is paired with the ConnectLine App, it enables users to switch to a variety of input sources. Users can move seamlessly from making phone and FaceTime calls to listening to music, and volume can be adjusted individually for each source. They can also connect to the entire integrated ConnectLine system including ConnectLine TV, Phone Adapters and Microphone.
The initial products from three of the Big Six are only the tip of the Made for iPhone Hearing Aids iceberg. Watch for announcements in coming months from the other global hearing aid makers as well as from dozens of new market entrants waiting in the wings.
And we haven’t even mentioned the next logical shoe to drop in the increasingly competitive hearing aid market — Made for Android Hearing Aids. Stay tuned.