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This year, gadget vendors will sell 274.59 million smartwatches, fitness bands and other wearable devices, generating revenue of $28.7 billion, predicts Gartner, an IT analyst firm. Smartwatches alone will account 50.4 million units sold and $11.5 billion in wearables purchases.
Compared to last year, when just over 232 million units were sold, the wearables market will experience an 18.4 percent gain in sales, according to Gartner. In 2017, the analyst group expects sales to jump to 322.7 million units.
Apple's entry into the wearables market is piquing interest, contends Angela McIntyre, a research director at Gartner.
"From 2015 through 2017, smartwatch adoption will have 48 percent growth largely due to Apple popularizing wearables as a lifestyle trend," McIntyre stated in a media advisory. "Smartwatches have the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2019, reaching $17.5 billion."
Gartner's forecast may be cause to celebrate, but McIntyre cautioned that increased demand for wearables won't be enough dethrone the current king of mobility: the smartphone.
"Though the sales of smartwatches are one of the strongest types of wearables, their adoption will remain much below sales of smartphones," she said. "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 and health monitors will continue gain popularity, partly due to wellness programs in the U.S.
Athletes, in general, will opt for sports watches over smartwatches, McIntyre said. "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."
Meanwhile, the head-mounted display category, responsible for a meager 140,000 units sold in 2015, will balloon to 6.3 million units in 2017 as interest for virtual- and augmented-reality experiences builds in both the consumer and enterprise markets.
"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 Brian Blau, a Gartner research director, in a statement. Gartner expects that in 2018, 26 percent of head-mounted displays will be designed for business use.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.