Wednesday, 03 February 2016 12:38

Gartner tips respectable growth for wearables

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Research firm Gartner predicts 18.4% growth in the wearables market in 2016, and a further 17.5% in 2017.

Gartner forecasts worldwide sales of wearable electronic devices will reach 274.6 million this year, up 18.4% from 2015's 232.0 million units. That's a US$28.7 billion market.

Bluetooth headsets accounted for half of the 2015 market by volume, and are only expected to grow by 10% this year.

Not surprisingly, Gartner says the real action is in smartwatches.

"From 2015 through 2017, smartwatch adoption will have 48&% growth largely due to Apple popularising wearables as a lifestyle trend," said research director Angela McIntyre.

"Smartwatches have the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2019, reaching $17.5 billion.

"Though the sales of smartwatches are the one of the strongest types of wearables, their adoption will remain much below sales of smartphones.

"For example, in 2016 more than 374 million smartphones will sell in mature market countries and in large urban areas of emerging market countries, for example, in Hong Kong and Singapore."

Fitness wearables - wristbands, smart garments, chest straps, sports watches and so on - continue to increase in popularity, although chest strap sales volumes are predicted to peak this year at 13.02 million units, dropping to 7.99 million in 2017.

"Of all the fitness wearables, sports watches will be the one product category to maintain its average retail price over the next several years," said McIntyre. "Continued advances in sensors and analytics for sports watches will bring new capabilities that bolster average retail prices."

"Race runners, cyclists and divers will choose sports watches over smartwatches because the user interface, capabilities and durability are tailored to the needs of an athlete in their sport," she added.

And there's the thing. Wearables have to do their job well and be convenient to use if they are to achieve mass adoption.

Among the other subcategories, 2016 will see head-mounted displays (HMDs) move towards mainstream adoption among consumers and enterprises, Gartner predicts.

"New virtual reality HMDs for consumers, such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, and Microsoft HoloLens are expected to be available along with video games and entertainment content as well as business applications critical for their success," said research director Brian Blau.

"Film producers and sports leagues will augment their traditional content through HMDs to enhance their customer experiences by creating interactive attractions, movies, and sporting events that make the content more personal and meaningful."

Looking further ahead, Garner predicts 26% of HMDs will be designed for business use by 2018, and used for tasks such as equipment repair, inspections and maintenance.

Forecast for Wearable Devices Worldwide (Millions of Units)

Device 2015 2016 2017
Smartwatch 30.32 50.40 66.71
Head-mounted display 0.14 1.43 6.31
Body-worn camera 0.05 0.17 1.05
Bluetooth headset 116.32 128.50 139.23
Wristband 30.15 34.97 44.10
Smart garment 0.06 1.01 5.30
Chest strap 12.88 13.02 7.99
Sports watch 21.02 23.98 26.92
Other fitness monitor 21.07 21.11 25.08
Total 232.01 274.59 322.69

Source: Gartner (January 2016)

The reports 'Forecast: Wearable Electronic Devices, Worldwide, 2016' and 'Market Trends: Wristbands, Worldwide, 2015' are available to Gartner clients.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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