Watches and wristbands driving volume while clothing and eyewear gain traction
Worldwide shipments of wearable devices are expected to reach 101.9 million units by the end of 2016, representing 29.0% growth over 2015. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, the market for wearable devices will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3%, culminating in 213.6 million units shipped in 2020.
“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,” continued Ubrani. “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.
Said Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s wearables programme: “Cellular connectivity essentially frees the wearable from being tethered to a smartphone. The immediate use case will be to make telephone calls, but it goes well beyond that. Cellular connectivity on a wearable can transmit and receive data, including time, location, and other data about a user and his or her surroundings. 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.
“The trajectory of the wearables market signals a strong opportunity for developers,” Llamas 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. And, when combined with cellular connectivity, users will not have to take out their smartphones to get the latest information. All they will need to do is glance at their wearable.”
Popularised by devices like the Apple Watch, Moto 360, and others, the watch category is expected to increase from 41.0% of total wearables shipments in 2016 to 52.1% in 2020. However, not all watches are the same. While smartwatches are in the spotlight today, future growth will come from basic watches that provide some sort of fitness and sleep tracking while not being sophisticated enough to run third party applications on the watch itself. Traditional fashion brands like Fossil and health and fitness companies like Fitibit and Withings will help this segment grow.
Through their simplicity, fitness-focused wrist bands have dominated the market thus far. Driven by low cost vendors Xiaomi and giants like Fitbit, this category will remain influential and accessible. However, that dominance will be challenged by watches as many watch vendors incorporate basic fitness features into their products.
Microsoft’s recent Windows Holographic announcement and abundance of hardware partners along with Google’s competing Android platform are projected to drive uptake in eye worn devices. Initially, such devices are expected to bring a transformational shift in mobile computing to select industries and job functions.
However, IDC anticipates some hardware providers will also offer consumer-friendly options. Although this category will account for less than 10% of wearable device shipments by 2020, all eyes are on this lucrative category as it will account for more than 40% of the total revenue of the Wearables market due to the high prices for specialised commercial devices.
Traditional fashion and fitness brands are quickly partnering up with tech companies to deliver smarter clothing, bringing some much needed attention to this nascent segment. Even conventional tech companies like Lenovo and Samsung are beginning to dabble in this space, revealing prototypes of shoes or belts.
The category stands to capture 7.3% of the market by 2020 as consumers and athletes integrate fashion-tech into their daily lives.
Lesser known form factors like clip-on devices, hearables, helmets, and more will account for 6.1% in 2016 and 3.3% in 2020. While IDC does not expect an immense amount of growth in this segment, it will nonetheless bear watching as numerous vendors cater to niche audiences with creative new devices and uses.