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Report: Wearable Shipments to Top 100 Million This Year

Global shipments of wearable devices will grow 29 percent over 2015 to hit 101.9 million units this year according to a new forecast from market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC). The segment will continue to see strong growth, according to the company, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3 percent through 2020, when it will ship 213.6 million units.

The market leaders throughout the forecast period will remain watches and wrist bands.

Watches are currently in second place, with a 31.9 percent market share in 2015 and a projected 41 percent share and 41.8 million shipments this year. The category will ride a 27.8 percent CAGR throughout the forecast period to lead the segment in 2020 with a 52.1 percent market share and 111.3 million shipments.

"While smartwatches are in the spotlight today, future growth will come from basic watches that provide some sort of fitness/sleep tracking while not being sophisticated enough to run third party applications on the watch itself," according to information released by IDC. "Traditional fashion brands like Fossil and health/fitness companies like Fitibit and Withings will help this segment grow."

Wristbands are the current leader, with a 50.2 percent share in 2015 that is predicted to improve slightly to 50.5 percent this year on the strength of 51.4 million devices sold. The 4.3 percent CAGR IDC predicts for the category, however, is the lowest in the segment but good enough to hold second place by the end of the forecast period, with a 28.5 percent market share and 60.8 million units shipped.

"Through their simplicity, fitness-focused wrist bands have dominated the market thus far," according to an IDC news release. "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."

Eyewear will see the largest CAGR, at 201.2 percent, though it starts from a meager 100,000 shipments in 2015 and a market share of just 0.2 percent. That strong growth has the category shipping 18.8 million units in 2020 for a market share of 8.8 percent.

"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," according to IDC. "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 specialized commercial devices."

Clothing, starting at 400,000 units sold last year and a market share of 2.2 percent, will see the second highest CAGR, 62.6 percent, of any category throughout the forecast period but will still arrive in fourth place in 2020 with a 7.3 percent market share and 15.6 million shipments.

"Lesser known form factors like clip-on devices, hearables, helmets, and more will account for 6.1 percent in 2016 and 3.3 percent in 2020," according to a news release from IDC. "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." 

"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, in a prepared statement. "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."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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