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Smartwatch sales expected to soar while wristbands face flat growth

IDC’s latest wearables market forecast sees smartwatches continuing their ascendence at the expense of fitness trackers.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Overall, some 124.9 million units are expected to be shipped by the end of this year, up 8.2% from 2017. Apple will continue to dominate with its Apple Watch, in contrast to the 6.6% fall expected from wristband shipments. The market for fitness trackers is definitely cooling off as the likes of Fitbit and Garmin focus on establishing a foothold in the smartwatch segment. This is according to the International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker from IDC.

Growth in 2018 will be slightly lower than the 10.3% in the previous year, but it is expected to return to double-digits from 2019 to 2022. Beyond 2018 wristbands are expected to flatline, with growth averaging below 1%. It doesn’t bode well for the category, particularly when you factor in the $50 drop in selling prices expected over the next four years.

“The shift in consumer preferences towards smartwatches has been in full swing these past few quarters and we expect that to continue in the coming years,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.

“While Apple will undoubtedly lead in this category, what bears watching is how Google and its partners move forward. WearOS (formerly Android Wear) has been somewhat of a laggard recently and despite expected changes to the OS and the release of new silicon, we anticipate Android-based watches to be WearOS’ closest competitor due to the high amount of customization available to vendors and the lack of Google services in China.”

Smartwatches are expected to evolve in form and function, so much so that “smartwatches of 2022, even 2020, will make today’s smartwatches seem quaint.” They will not only continue to build on health and fitness functionality but will also include cellular connectivity and integration with smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

smartwatch sales expected to soar as wristband sales to face flat growth as smartwatch sales expected to soar - Smartwatch sales expected to soar while wristbands face flat growth

Beyond the typical wrist-worn devices, IDC anticipates earwear to gain momentum. Clothing with built-in sensors is also expected to grow and double its share by 2022, albeit from a low base. Finally, IDC also sees many sports-watch and kids’ watch vendors transitioning their user base to smartwatches in hopes of increasing revenue.

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