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Bose kills off its Sport Open Earbuds as new players enter the category

Bose has decided to pull the plug on its Sport Open Earbuds, a set of wireless earbuds that sit on your ear instead of inside it, according to a report from The Verge and confirmed by Bose. The move comes less than two years after the product’s debut. The remainder of Bose’s Sport Open Earbuds is now discounted to $119 (down from its regular $199 price) until all of the inventory has been sold.

Bose Sport Open Earbuds sitting in charging cradle.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Sport Open Earbuds were the first to try something entirely new for the wireless earbuds market. Instead of placing an earbud inside your ear, or pressed up against your ear canal, they perch on top of your ears, with a portion of the C-shaped device wrapped around the back of your ears. The design has one major strength: it lets you hear the outside world as clearly as you do when not wearing any earbuds at all.

It also has some drawbacks. The earhook style can sometimes interfere with glasses, and in most outdoor situations, where the earbuds are primarily intended to be worn, external sounds often overpower the audio coming from the earbuds. The earbuds also needed to be charged via a proprietary cradle, and their carrying case was just that — a way to protect the earbuds — but it lacked its own battery for on-the-go recharging.

Bose hasn’t given up on the concept entirely. It continues to sell its line of Bose Frames — glasses with the same style of speaker embedded in their limbs — though it’s hard to say how much demand there is for such a product.

Bose’s abandonment of the open earbud space comes at a curious time. After the Sport Open Earbuds debuted, Bose effectively had a monopoly on the concept. But in recent months, competitors have shown up, like the Cleer Audio Arc and the Wearable Stereo from newcomer, Oladance.

We put these two new open earbud models in a three-way shootout with the Bose Sport Open, and found the Oladance Wearable Stereo superior to the Bose and Cleer models in a variety of areas including sound quality, comfort, and battery life.

Digital Trends has also been informed that Allway, a maker of affordable personal audio products, has decided to skip its original plans to promote its new OE10 open earbuds via a crowdfunding campaign and go straight to retail sales via its own website.

Given this interest (at least from manufacturers) in the open earbud market, did Bose give up too soon on the category it helped to create? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time. As The Verge’s Chris Welch points out, Bose no longer makes its around-the-neck Soundwear Companion Speaker, despite the fact that Sony and many other companies now make similar devices.

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