IDC Foresees Big Changes Coming to Wearables Market as Sales Soar

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IDC Foresees Big Changes Coming to Wearables Market as Sales Soar

Wearables could be the next major-growth segment in the mobile technology industry, according to new data from research company IDC. Wearable device makers will ship 113.2 million units this year across a wide range of device types, including smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wireless headphones, according to IDC market study. But by 2021 manufacturers will ship 222.3 million devices, an 18.4 percent compound annual growth rate, IDC estimates. But major changes are coming to the wearables market over the next three years. The fitness trackers that dominate the market now will have less influence as full featured smartwatches from the likes of Apple and Samsung become the top sellers. Meanwhile, smart clothing will become a significant force in the marketplace. Read on for more details on IDC’s wearable market study.

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Fitness Trackers Are Still Top Sellers

When all the numbers are in Fitness trackers, or “basic wristbands” as IDC calls them in its study, will account for 39.8 percent of total wearable shipments in 2017. This equals sales of about 45 million units. The devices are especially popular in emerging markets, according to IDC.

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Fitness Trackers Are Losing Steam

Looking ahead, fitness tracker sales are stagnating. According to IDC, it expects total fitness tracker shipments around the world to hit 47.7 million units by 2021. That amounts to 1.5 percent compound annual growth between 2017 and 2021. As a result, the category’s market will slide to 21.5 percent.

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Smartwatches Showing Strong Growth

Smartwatches have come on strong in 2017. IDC estimates that device makers shipped 31.6 million smartwatches worldwide by the end of 2017 putting this category's market share at 27.9 percent. According to IDC, Apple is by far the market leader in smartwatches.

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Smartwatches Shipments to Continue Growing

Apple and some competitors, including Samsung and Google, are expected to benefit from smartwatch popularity over the next several years. The smartwatch category could tally 71.5 million unit shipments in 2021, earning it 32.1 percent market share. Smartwatches should be able to tally a 22.7 percent compound annual growth rate between 2017 and 2021.

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Basic Watches Keep Growing

Basic watches, including “hybrid devices” that come with more luxurious designs, but some digital features, will accounts for 29.9 million unit shipments in 2017. That’s enough to earn the category 26.4 percent market share and put it just behind smartwatches.

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But Basic Watch Sales to Grow Sharply

In four years, things will change dramatically for basic watches. A whopping 78 million units will ship that year, representing 27.1 percent compound annual growth between 2017 and 2021. Basic watches will be market leaders that year with 35.1 percent market share.

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Smart Clothing Shows Strong Potential

In its report, IDC called “sensor-laden clothing” an “emerging category” in wearables. This year, just 2.4 million units will ship, thanks to step-counting sneakers and other fitness-related articles of clothing.

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Smart Clothing Sales Will Soar

By 2021, smart clothing shipments will jump as prices come down and a broader market sees value in the category, IDC predicts. In 2021 smart clothing shipments will total 11.5 million units, earning the category 5.2 percent of the wearables market. That also mean clothing shipments will show a 48.7 percent compound annual growth rate over 2017-2021 period.

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Earwear Remains a Tiny Wearable Category

The earwear category in IDC’s study includes wireless headphones, such as Apple’s AirPods, but not Bluetooth headsets. So, total shipments for earwear will hit just 1.7 million units this year, earning the category a meager 1.5 percent market share.

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Earwear Has Strong Growth Potential

Thanks in no small part to smartphone makers removing the headphone jacks in their devices, wireless headphones sales will soar in the coming years, according to IDC. By 2021, total earwear shipments will hit 10.6 million units, earning the category the strongest compound annual growth rate in the market of 58.5 percent. Earwear’s market share will also triple to 4.8 percent.

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