IDC predicts that worldwide shipments of wearable devices are expected to reach 101.9 million units by the end of 2016, representing 29.0% growth over 2015.
IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker found that the market for wearable devices will experience a compound annual growth rate of 20.3%, culminating in 213.6 million units shipped in 2020.
While fitness-focused wrist bands will remain popular, smart watches are expected to account for 41% of the total wearable shipments this year and 52.1% by 2020 as vendors incorporate basic fitness features into their products.
The uptake of eye-worn devices is also expected to rise with the introduction of Microsoft's Windows Holographic, which was opened to hardware partners earlier this month. Initially, IDC expects these devices to enable mobile computing in select industries and job functions. Although this category will account for less than 10% of wearable device shipments by 2020, IDC estimates it will contribute more than 40% of the total revenue of the wearables market due to the high prices of specialised commercial devices.
Smart clothing for consumers and athletes will capture 7.3% of the market by 2020 as traditional fashion and fitness brands partner with technology companies. Other lesser known form factors, such as clip-on devices, hearables and helmets, will comprise 6.1% of the market in 2016 and 3.3% 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. 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 programme. “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, analysing 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.”
This will provide an opportunity for developers to create applications for more than just health and fitness tracking.
“Applications increase the value and utility of a wearable, and users want to see more than just their health and fitness results,” said Llamas. “News, weather, sports, social media, and internet of things 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.”
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