Hearing is believing: People don’t realize how important great sound is until they experience it

Mobile Audio Study

Sound quality is a hugely important part of the multimedia experience on mobile devices that often gets overlooked. It’s not easy to convey how big the impact of good sound quality is on the overall experience, but a new Parks Associates study commissioned by Dolby set out to do just that. The study’s findings, set to be published later today by Dolby, show that the majority of smartphone owners consider sound quality to some degree when choosing a smartphone or tablet. After hearing an audio demonstration from a device that features enhanced sound, however, the overwhelming majority of users acknowledge that audio quality is an important feature on mobile devices.

Parks Associates interviewed 1,000 smartphone owners in each of four countries — China, France, Germany and South Korea — and 1,152 smartphone owners in the United States when conducting the study. The concept was simple: smartphone owners were asked if audio quality was a consideration when purchasing a mobile device. Then they were played an audio demo on a mobile device featuring enhanced Dolby sound, and asked the same question again.

Prior to the demo, a healthy number of the study’s subjects said sound quality was a factor when buying a smartphone or tablet, including 74% in the U.S., 74% in France and 70% in Germany. After the audio demo, those numbers jumped significantly — 91% of smartphone owners polled in the U.S. said audio quality would be a purchase factor, as did 86% of French smartphone users and 81% of German smartphone owners.

The percentage of subjects who said sound quality was a consideration in China jumped to 97% from 94% following the demo, and in South Korea the figure climbed to 90% from 72%, a huge 18-point differential.

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The Dolby sound demo had a similar impact on the answers to a follow-up question. When subjects were asked to rate how important audio quality was when purchasing a mobile device on a 10-point scale, ratings climbed across the board following the Dolby demo.

In the U.S., 53% of smartphone owners rated sound quality between 8 and 10 before the demo and 67% gave it a top rating after the Dolby demo, up 14 points. In France the figure jumped 12 points to 56% from 44%, in Germany it climbed 11 points to 55% from 44%, in China it jumped 12 points to 77% from 65% and in South Korea it went up to 64% from 39%, a monster 25-point swing.

Sound quality might not be an easy sell on paper, but enhanced mobile audio from companies like Dolby has a clear and immediate impact on the smartphone experience. This is a big part of the reason companies like HTC (2498) are making serious investments in mobile audio, and we’ll likely continue to see investments made in this space in the years to come.

UPDATE: Dolby has published details from the study on its corporate blog.

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