Thursday, 22 June 2017 08:07

Wearables to double by 2021

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Wearables are no longer an “answer looking for a question” but their purpose has been redefined – basic, single purpose devices will continue to out-ship smarter ones.

According to IDC, the top wearable device maker by volume is Xiaomi. Its shipment volume of 3.6 million units in Q1, 2017 was primarily fitness tracking wristbands.

Apple was number two with its Apple Watch Series 2 showing a 64.1% year-on-year (YoY) increase in shipments to nearly 3.6 million. Apple sold in more mature, higher socio-economic markets. Samsung also did well with its Gear Fit 2 and Gear 3 selling 1.4 million units – up 90.8% YoY.

Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team, said, “The wearables market is entering a new phase. Since the market’s inception, it has been a matter of getting product out there to generate awareness and interest. Now it is about getting the experience right – from the way the hardware looks and feels to how software collects, analyses, and presents insightful data.”

IDC says that in the years ahead, users will see second- and third-generation devices that will make the today’s devices seem quaint. Expect digital assistants, cellular connectivity, and connections to larger systems, both at home and at work. At the same time, expect to see a proliferation in the diversity of devices brought to market and a decline in prices that will make these more affordable.

The main issues with smartwatches have been the need to frequently charge them, the need to be tethered to the smartphone for most functionality, and the cost – there simply was not a compelling reason to buy one over a normal watch.

Smartwatches, however, will see a boost in volumes in 2019 as cellular connectivity becomes more prevalent on the market and costs come down.

IDC wearables Q1

IDC said watches would account for most of the wearable devices shipped until 2021. "However basic watches (devices that do not run third party applications, including hybrid watches, fitness/GPS watches, and most kid watches) will continue out-shipping smart watches (devices capable of running third party applications, like Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, and all Android Wear devices), as numerous traditional watch makers shift more resources to building hybrid watches, creating a greater TAM (Technology Acceptance Model)."

As to wristbands, they would see slowing growth in the years ahead, IDC said. The sudden softness in the wristband market witnessed at the end of 2016 will carry into subsequent quarters and year, but the market will be propped up with low-cost devices with good enough features for the mass market. In addition, users will transition to watches for additional utility and multi-purpose use.

Earwear includes devices that bring additional functionality, and sends information back and forth to a smartphone application. 

IDC said the smart clothing market took a strong step forward, thanks to Chinese vendors providing shirts, belts, shoes, socks, and other connected apparel. "While consumers have yet to fully embrace connected clothing, professional athletes and organisations have warmed to their usage to improve player performance," the company said. The upcoming release of Google and Levi’s Project Jacquared-enabled jacket may change that this year.

"We include lesser-known products like clip-on devices, non-AR/VR eyewear, and others in the 'others' category. While we do 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," IDC said.

IDC wearables makers Q1 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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