Folks need look no further than their wrists to see where the wearables market is headed.
Vendors are expected to ship 125.5 million wearable devices this year, a 20-percent increase compared to 2016 (104.3 million), predicts IDC. By 2021, the analyst firm expects shipments to reach over 240 million.
Basic watches and smartwatches, the latter of which can run third-party apps like the Apple Watch, will account for 161 million of those wearables in 2021 or 67 percent of the market. Wristbands, once the preferred form factor of health and fitness trackers, will represent nearly 22 percent of the market with shipments of over 52 million units.
In the here and now, the market is undergoing some profound shifts.
"Since the market's inception, it's been a matter of getting product out there to generate awareness and interest. Now it's about getting the experience right – from the way the hardware looks and feels to how software collects, analyzes, and presents insightful data," said IDC research manager Ramon T. Llamas, in a statement.
This new focus on the overall user experience will lead to a wearables renaissance, of sorts.
"What this means for users is that in the years ahead, they will be treated to second- and third-generation devices that will make the today's devices seem quaint," Llamas added. "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 to a larger crowd."
It's a safe bet that most of those experiences will take place on a wrist-worn device.
Combined, watches and wristbands will account for over 213 million of the wearables expected to ship in 2021, or nearly 89 percent of the market. IDC expects that smartwatch volumes will experience an uptick in 2019 when cellular-enabled devices start to gain traction and buyer interest.
Despite a strong five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 76 percent, the smart clothing segment will remain a distant third with nine percent of the market and shipments of 21.6 million. Earwear will nab just 1.7 percent of the market on shipments of 4 million units.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.