Wearable Shipments Worldwide to Top 200 Million: IDC

At the same time, the research firm expects major changes in the products, including 'smarter watches ... built by classic watch makers.'
Katie Kuehner-HebertMarch 17, 2016
Wearable Shipments Worldwide to Top 200 Million: IDC

As more vendors get into the wearable device market and as consumer demand rises, shipments should top 200 million by 2019, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker released Thursday.

For 2016, worldwide shipments are expected to increase 38.2% from the prior year, to 110 million. For each year until 2020, the sector should see double-digit growth, culminating in shipments of 237.1 million wearable devices in 2020, IDC says.

Also boosting shipments will be the “proliferation” of new and different wearable products, IDC said. The research firm forecasts that watch and wristband shipments will reach a combined total of 100 million shipments in 2016, up from 72.2 million in 2015. Other form factors, such as clothing, eyewear, and “hearables,” are expected to reach 9.8 million units in 2016 and will more than double their share by 2020.

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Moreover, smartwatches will get “smarter,” IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in the report.

“Although smartwatches like the Apple Watch or Android Wear devices capture the spotlight, they will only account for a quarter of all wearables in 2016 and will grow to about a third by 2020,” Ubrani said. “It’s time to start thinking about smarter watches — traditional watches with some sort of fitness or sleep tracking but are unable to run apps — built by classic watch makers. These devices have the potential of making the technology invisible while still integrating themselves within day-to-day activities.”

The development of smarter watches could also alleviate some of the typical challenges that smartwatch platforms face, such as the need to create a developer or app ecosystem, he added. But with that said, smartwatches with an app ecosystem, such as Apple’s watchOS and Google’s Android Wear, are expected to gain traction in the market as both products and experiences evolve.

“We expect to see major changes, with smartwatches that actually look like watches, user interfaces that are easier than swipes and gestures, applications that rival those on our smartphones, and connections to networks, systems, and other devices,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team. “This puts pressure on smartwatch platforms to develop further from where they are today.”

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