Global shipments of wearables are expected to increase by nearly a third this year to a record 101.9 million units according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Growth will continue in the years to come. IDC predicts that annual shipments will more than double by 2020 to 213.6 million units per year.
Wristbands have dominated the market so far driven by low cost vendors such as Xiaomi and well known brands such as Fitbit, IDC says. In the next four years, however, smartwatches will increase their market share from 41% in 2016 to 52%. Most of this growth will come from basic watches that provide some sort of fitness tracking while not being sophisticated enough to run third party applications on the watch itself.
“Unlike the smartphone, which consolidated multiple technologies into one device, the wearables market is a collection of disparate devices,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
“Watches and bands are and always will be popular, but the market will clearly benefit from the emergence of additional form factors, like clothing and eyewear, that will deliver new capabilities and experiences. Eyewear has a clear focus on the enterprise as it stands to complement or replace existing computing devices, particularly for workers in the field or on the factory floor. Meanwhile, clothing will take aim at the consumer, offering the ability to capture new forms of descriptive and prescriptive data.”
Two other factors driving the wearables market forward are cellular connectivity and applications.
“Cellular connectivity essentially frees the wearable from being tethered to a smartphone,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables program.
“…Imagine what that means when tracking steps, analyzing patient activity, or shopping: the information can be shared immediately with a second or third party, and the user can, in turn, receive context appropriate information back,” Lamas continued.
“Applications increase the value and utility of a wearable, and users want to see more than just their health and fitness results. News, weather, sports, social media, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications will all have a place on a wearable.”
Other categories that are expected to capture a growing market share include eye worn devices. This category will account for less than 10% of wearable device shipments by 2020, but more than 40% of the revenue due to the high prices for specialized commercial devices. Clothing is also expected to take off, as traditional fashion and fitness brands partner up to bring fashion-tech into our daily lives.