The wearable device market is about to explode, according to analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
After shipping 19.6 million wearables in 2014, IDC expects vendors to send 45.7 million units out their doors this year, a 133.4 percent gain. And for the foreseeable future, the forecast looks encouragingly bright.
Shipments of wearable devices will reach 126.1 million units by 2019, predicts IDC. Device makers can expect to ramp up production with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.1 percent during the next five years.
Driving demand is the highly-anticipated Apple Watch and other smart wearables – a category that describes devices that can run third-party apps – like Samsung's Gear smartwatches the Moto 360 from Motorola. IDC expects shipments of 25.7 million such units in 2015, a massive 510.9 percent gain compared to the 4.2 million units shipped last year.
"Smart wearables are about to take a major step forward with the launch of the Apple Watch this year," said IDC research manager Ramon Llamas, in a statement. "The Apple Watch raises the profile of wearables in general and there are many vendors and devices that are eager to share the spotlight."
Earlier this month, Strategy Analytics said that Apple would claim the smartwatch crown this year with shipments of 15.4 million Watches. "Apple's famous brand, loyal fan base, deep retail presence and extensive apps ecosystem will ensure healthy uptake for its Watch," said the firm in a statement. CCS Insight's outlook calls for sales of 20 million Apple Watches this year.
Vendors will need to come up with compelling reasons to get potential buyers to give up their old-school timepieces, suggested IDC program director Ryan Reith,
"While Apple's entry into the market is symbolic, the key to success will be to create compelling use cases for the average consumer," said Reith in prepared remarks. "Many users will need a good reason to replace a traditional watch or accessory with a wrist-worn device or some other form of wearable that will likely require daily charging and occasional software upgrades."
Smartwatches may steal the limelight, but basic wearables "will not disappear," said IDC's Llamas. While they won't be able to run third-party apps, adoption will remain healthy with shipments of 20 million units this year, compared to 15.4 million in 2014, a 30 percent increase. "In fact, we anticipate continued growth here as many segments of the market seek out simple, single-use wearable devices."
Wrists are by far the most popular body part to outfit with a wearable, now and into the future. Wrist-worn devices accounted for 90.4 percent of wearables market last year and are expected to make up 89.2 percent this year. By 2019, wristwear will dip somewhat but remain in the dominant position with an 80.4 percent share of the market, followed by modular and clip-on devices (5.3 percent), clothing (4.5 percent), eyewear (3.5 percent) and earwear (0.5 percent).
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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