Shipments of wearable devices will reach 173.4 million units by 2019, according to a new forecast released today by International Data Corporation (IDC).
By comparison, the technology research firm expects vendors to ship 76.1 million wearables in 2015, a 163.6 percent jump from the 28.9 million devices shipped last year. During the five-year forecast period, the device category will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9 percent.
In the interim, wearables will evolve from companion devices for smartphones to more full-featured devices in their own right, said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst, IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
"Driven by advancements in user interface (UI) and features, smart wearables are on track to surpass the lower priced, less functional basic wearable category in 2018," said Ubrani in prepared remarks. "Smart wearables will quickly move from a smartphone accessory primarily focused on notifications to a more advanced wearable computer capable of doing more processing on its own."
For the time being, the market is attracting the attention of more manufacturers and finding its footing, observed IDC research director Ramon Llamas. After that, things will really pick up.
"Potential buyers wary of what is currently available will most likely be more interested once the second- and third-generation devices come to market with improved hardware and applications," Llamas said in a statement. "From there, word-of-mouth and user-ambassadors will help to spur interest."
Apple Watch will lead the market come 2019 after a refresh or two, IDC predicts. But the device will not go unchallenged.
"IDC expects second and third generations of the Apple Watch will drive shipment volumes later in the forecast, particularly among those customers who take a wait-and-see approach. It will, however, see its market share erode as other platforms – particularly Android Wear – gain greater salience in the market," stated the analyst firm.
Similar to today's mobile OS market, buyers will flock to Google's wearable OS by virtue of broad vendor support.
"Android/Android Wear will experience market-beating growth, with a combination of consumer electronics heavyweights and an expanding list of watchmaker brands also expected to launch their own smart watches in the years to come," stated IDC. "Also helping Android/Android Wear's cause is the broader and deeper selection of devices at multiple price points that will appeal to a wide audience."
By 2019, Apple will ship 40.3 million watches and command 47.4 percent of the smart wristwear market. Android-and Android Wear-powered devices will account for 38.4 percent of the market with shipments of 32.6 million units. Pebble OS, RTOS (Real-Time Operating System) and Tizen will help round out the top five.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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