Since the launch of the Apple Watch in April this year, research firm IDC estimates that the wearable market will expand by 173% this year as shipments rise from 26.4 million in 2014 to more than 72.1 million in 2015.
Wearables growing in popularity
The IDC estimates include basic wearables and smart wearables, watches, eyewear, clothing, ear wear and more, so it’s not just the Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatches that make up the estimates, but includes fitness trackers, glasses and other wearables, many of which don’t even include a screen.
Last year the basic wearables sold more than so-called smart wearables by 4 to 1 (22.1 million versus 4.2 million), but this year IDC reckons that the smart wearables category has closed the gap, and of those 72.1 million estimated units 39 million will be of the basic type and 33.1 million will be smarter.
IDC does not however break down the estimated by device, and we do not yet know any official sales figures from Apple yet, but it does say that “smart wearables, those capable of running third party apps, will take the lead in 2016”. By 2019 IDC says the market will more than double with more than 155 million units, made up of around 66 million basic wearables and almost 94 million smart ones.
Smart wearables like the Apple Watch and Micosoft’s Hololens are indicative of an upcoming change in computing, and the transition from basic to smart wearables opens up a slew of opportunities for vendors, app developers, and accessory makers…Android Wear, Tizen, and WatchOS are moving ahead with improved user interfaces, user experiences, and applications. These will raise the expectations of what a smart wearable can do, and each platform is vying for best-in-class status. We’re not there yet, but we’re seeing the building blocks of what is to come.
As far as the Apple Watch goes, the world’s most popular smartwatch, we probably won’t get a breakdown of sales any time soon (as Apple says it will report numbers in its ‘other’ product category which includes things like the Apple TV set-top box).
However, just this week Slice Intelligence estimates the Apple Watch has sold around 3 million units in the US alone. That doesn’t obviously include sales where the watch is on sale today, including the UK, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany and Japan.
The latest stats from KGI Research puts the total worldwide shipments at 5-6 million to date with an estimate of around 15 million for the whole year.
It’s clear that wearables are becoming an important consumer electronics product category in their own right, and definitely on the upward trend after years of being a rather niche interest.