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It's all in the wrist.
Wearable device vendors will ship 121.7 million units by the end of 2017, a 16.6 percent annual increase, according to IDC's latest forecast. By 2021, that figure will reach 229.5 million wearables, representing a 17.2 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Much of that growth will be driven by wrist-worn devices like smartwatches and health trackers, which are typically perched on a very accessible part of the human body.
"We expect the most innovation and development in the wearables market to take place on the wrist. It's the ideal location for users to collect, view, and interact with data and applications, and the point to execute tasks like responding to notifications or communicating with other people and devices," said IDC research manager Ramon T. Llamas, in a statement. Layer on top of that varieties in style, design, segment, and feature set, and wristworn wearables are poised to remain well out in front of the market."
The smartwatch segment is already picking up steam.
During the second quarter of 2017, shipments of wearable devices reached 26.3 million units, a 10.3 percent year-over-year gain, according to an earlier market analysis from IDC. Buoyed by improving Apple Watch and Android Wear demand, smartwatch shipments shot up 60.9 percent compared to the same year-ago quarter, observed the research firm.
It also helps that wearables technology is improving by leaps and bounds.
"Other factors fueling growth in the wearables market will be the inclusion of cellular connectivity along with improved sensors and algorithms," added IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani. "Not only do these technologies provide increased accuracy, but they also make it possible for companies to sell wearables through new channels and more importantly, to new customers."
On Sept. 12, Apple unveiled its new Watch Series 3 smartwatch, which can be had in varieties that contain GPS or both GPS and LTE cellular connectivity when it reaches store shelves on Sept. 22 (preorders begin Sept. 15). Other device makers already offer LTE-enabled smartwatches, Samsung's Gear S3 and LG's Watch Sport.
By 2021, smartwatch shipments are expected to reach 154.4 million units from 67.5 million in 2017, after registering a CAGR of 23 percent. The segment will claim 67.3 percent of the wearables market in 2021, predicted IDC.
Although smartwatches are set to dominate the market, other wearable device segments will grow at faster rates.
The earwear category is poised to expand at a CAGR of 54.4 percent during IDC's forecast period, rising from 1.8 million units in 2017 to 10.5 million units in 2021. Rising demand for smart clothing with boost shipments from 2.8 million this year to 11.6 million in 2021, a CAGR of 42.8 percent.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.