Consumer demand for wearable technology is rising fast, with Q3 global shipments totalling 12.7 million units, up 40% from just over nine million units in Q3 2013, according to the latest quarterly research from Futuresource Consulting.
“The wearables market is definitely one to watch, with our forecasts predicting sales of 52 million units across all wearable categories this year, up 32% from 2013,” says Oliver Rowntree, Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting.
“Q4 is where we’re going to see all the action, with annual sales heavily weighted towards the pre-Christmas period. We’re expecting 39% of this year’s activity to drop into Q4, as wearable tech provides an appealing gifting option for consumers. Looking out even further, we’re anticipating further acceleration in the pace of growth in 2015 as smartwatches become more widely adopted, with a 44% growth rate driving the market to 74 million units shipped next year.”
The wearables category incorporates a number of product areas with varying degrees of maturity, which have very different market forces acting on them. While Futuresource anticipates significant growth in the category overall, this is not the case for every wearable product.
“The brand landscape continues to be dominated by fitness companies, due to the relative size of the fitness market within wearables,” says Rowntree. “Fitbit has effectively consolidated its significant lead in activity trackers, despite the entrance of larger CE competitors. Samsung comfortably leads in the nascent smartwatch market and Garmin retains a strong lead in the traditional fitness category.”
Futuresource expects the growth outlook for traditional fitness to be considerably less aggressive than for emerging categories such as activity trackers and smartwatches, with pedometers in particular seeing rapid decline.
“We expect connected watches – incorporating smartwatches and wireless watches – to experience extremely strong growth over the forecast period, reaching 83 million unit shipments in total by 2018,” says Rowntree.
Futuresource expects Apple to have a significant impact upon the connected watch market with its entry in 2015. The Apple Watch is well-positioned to capitalise on Apple’s premium brand positioning, and its aesthetic is in line with the level that might be expected for wearable technology to be worn as jewellery as well as technology.
“Longer-term growth is dependent upon how compelling a use case emerges for existing wearable products. While we have an optimistic view of the wearable market, there remain some uncertainties around the usage models for wearables, and whether a compelling raison d’étre for the category will develop,” says Rowntree.