Alango’s BeHear Hearables Take On Bose Hearphones
Competition Heats Up For Conversation-Enhancing Headphones
24 November 2018
Will Alango’s BeHear NOW headsets compete successfully with the popular Bose Hearphones? Alango has a great product with a lower price. Coupled with what I’m calling its “Trojan Horse” distribution strategy, Alango is entering the burgeoning “hearables” market well prepared to compete with the consumer electronics giant.
Bose calls its $499.95 Hearphones “conversation-enhancing headphones” that are “specially designed to help you hear in louder environments.” Like other Bose products, they are loaded with great technology. They feature active noise reduction, directional microphones, wireless Bluetooth streaming of music and phone calls, smartphone app control, and more.
The $249.00 BeHear NOW headset is strikingly similar. First, it features Bluetooth wireless audio streaming. It’s also a personal sound amplifier that is tunable and customizable from a smartphone, tablet or PC. And, like the Bose Hearphones, it features active noise reduction to make understanding speech in noisy environments easier.
Competing on Product, Price and Distribution
But then we get to some additional distinctions.
- Product: BeHear can actually slow down someone else’s voice to make it easier to understand while talking on the phone or listening to voicemail. Alango EasyListen™ technology slows down speech to improve intelligibility of “fast talkers,” foreign languages, and recorded messages. And BeHear pairs with Alango’s optional $49 HearLink™ TV transmitter to send the television’s audio signal directly to the paired BeHear NOW headset. Bose isn’t currently offering a TV transmitter for its Hearphones.
- Price: In addition to a single-unit BeHear price that’s $250 less than the Bose Hearphone, Alango’s Wear & Hear online shop sells a “Personal Bundle” for $288 that includes BeHear NOW with the HearLink TV transmitter. It also sells a “Harmony Bundle” for $499 that includes two BeHear headsets and a HearLink transmitter. That’s two headsets plus transmitter for the same price as a Bose Hearphone.
- Distribution: In addition to its online store, Alango is committed to working with audiologists who want to resell its products for patients with mild hearing loss. Alango just inked a deal with Clinic Management Service (CMS) to sell BeHear NOW through the CMS network of audiologist practices in Canada. I call it a “Trojan Horse” distribution strategy. Once Alango develops a network of audiologists, it will be positioned to follow up with other possible future products. For example, many audiologists are considering selling affordable over-the-counter hearing aids as a first step for customers who eventually might graduate to more expensive customer solutions.
Following the Leader
Does all this mean Alango will leapfrog Bose in the race to establish market leadership in hearables? Not necessarily. As an established leader in consumer electronics, Bose is able to command premium prices. And both companies, along with numerous emerging competitors such as Nuheara (IQ Buds), will tell you the hearables market is still in its infancy. There will be plenty of room in this wide-open, fast-growing market for new competitors with new products at new prices.
In the meantime, Alango is a small company that until recently has mainly developed very high-end audio technologies that other manufacturers integrated into their products. The BeHear NOW headset, the HearLink transmitter, and the Wear & Hear Store are its first ventures into the rough-and-tumble consumer electronics world. But its combination of innovations in product, price and distribution position it to compete successfully with established brands like Bose in the emerging hearables market.
Update: February 2019
Following through on its plan to reach hearing health care providers with BeHear NOW and other Wear & Hear assistive listening products, Alango inked a distribution deal with Oaktree Products on Feb. 7. Oaktree is the leading multi-line distributor of products and supplies to audiologists and hearing professionals. According to the agreement, Oaktree will sell Alango’s “Wear & Hear” line of personal hearing devices via their catalog, online store, and specialty channels in North America.
“In addition to clinical supplies, Oaktree has been involved in offering audiologists and other practitioners a wide scope of communication solutions beyond traditional hearing aids,” said Bob Kemp, founder and owner of Oaktree Products, Inc. “Wear & Hear is a product line that represents a viable option for adults who need some help but are not quite ready for regular hearing aids.”