Apple, Android to Lead Smartwatch Market Into 2020: IDC

IDC projects that worldwide shipments of smartwatches will reach 20.1 million units in 2016, an increase of just under 4 percent from 19.4 million units in 2015.

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New smartwatch shipments are expected to see only modest growth for the rest of 2016 due to late-in-the-year and iterative product releases, according to a report from IT research firm IDC.

IDC projects that worldwide shipments of smartwatches will reach 20.1 million units in 2016, up just under 4 percent from the 19.4 million units in 2015.

The report follows tech titan Apple's announcement of the Watch Series 2, which features built-in GPS, a faster dual-core processor and a display that's two times brighter than before, and is water resistant to 50m.

IDC predicted that Apple's watchOS would stay atop the smartwatch platform list throughout the forecast, noting the Series 2 Watch addresses some of the shortcomings of its predecessor.

However, the lower price on the first edition of Apple Watch, which starts at $269, may end up driving more volume in the upcoming holiday season.

Nevertheless, these will be enough to keep watchOS the overall market leader, and future iterations of the Watch with new body styles, materials and improved cellular connectivity will help the company retain its top spot later in the forecast period.

Google's Android and Android Wear-powered devices are expected to see the fastest growth of any platform on the list, and by 2020, will challenge watchOS for the top position in the worldwide smartwatch market.

Rounding out the top three smartwatch platforms is Tizen, which is expected to remain in third place throughout IDC's forecast, and puts significant pressure on Samsung, Tizen's sole supporter, to develop devices and platforms and cultivate the application selection.

The report noted that this strategy has proven successful for Samsung, especially in launching its unique bezel-based interface and cellular-capable smartwatches.

IDC's research categorizes smartwatches as those that can run third-party applications. Examples include Apple's Watch, Samsung's Gear S3, Motorola's Moto 360 and Pebble's Watch.

The devices are part of IDC's larger category of smart wearable devices, which also includes smart glasses and certain wristbands.

IDC expects worldwide shipments of smart wearables to reach 21.5 million units in 2016. By volume, smartwatches account for the largest part of the category and are expected to reach a total value of $17.8 billion dollars in 2020.

Other major players in the smartwatch market include Linux and Pebble OS, two platforms that are expected to decline over the forecast period due to increasing pressure from market leaders.

However, the report notes these platforms would likely still appeal to select segments of the market, particularly brand loyalists and gadget tinkerers.