Tech-Fashion Steps Up as Global Wearables Market Grows 172%

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iwatchIt looks like technology and fashion are having a good moment.

In a report released by the International Data Corporation (IDC), vendors of wearable devices like Fitbit and the Apple Watch have shipped a total of 78.1 million units in 2015, posting a 172% growth rate from 2014’s 28.8 million.

“Triple-digit growth highlights growing interest in the wearables market from both end-users and vendors,” says Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team. “It shows that wearables are not just for the technophiles and early adopters; wearables can exist and are welcome in the mass market. And since wearables have yet to fully penetrate the mass market, there is still plenty of room for growth in multiple vectors: new vendors, form factors, applications, and use cases. This will help propel the market further.”

Wearables Market 2015 statistics(Chart source: Statista)

Llamas also says that consumers have become smarter, as they expect improvement in future devices and applications. “Historical data, like steps taken and calories burned, has been a very good start. Prescriptive data, like what else a user can do to live a healthier life, coupled with popular applications like social media, news, and navigation, will push wearables further, and attract more users,” he adds.

Designer collaborations, like what Fitbit did with Public School, are “more likely to succeed” these days in wooing potential customers, says Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Simply encrusting your watch with gold and jewels is not going to cut it,” Ubrani adds.

“It’s also worth noting that the wearables market isn’t just about smartwatches and fitness bands,” says Ubrani. “Though the top 5 certainly dominate with wrist-worn devices, there’s been an immense amount of growth in other form factors like clothing, footwear, and eyewear–form factors that arguably require even more fashion sense than watches or bands.”

Brand Analysis

Apple sold 41 million Apple Watches in the fourth quarter of 2015, although IDC notes that its sales increased by no more than 5%  over the previous quarter. As IDC notes, “Expectations are higher for the next generation Apple Watch that can leverage the company’s platforms (HealthKit, ResearchKit, WatchKit, and watchOS 2) and connectivity capabilities.”

Meanwhile, shipments for Fitbit jumped by more than 70% during the holiday quarter of 2015, making it a leader now in wearable devices. Contributing factors include a well-segmented device portfolio, a briskly growing corporate wellness program, and extended global market research. This year, the brand gears up for a new watch, Fitbit Blaze, and a fashionable wristband called Fitness Alta.

Xiaomi’s Mi Band is best known for being affordable, going as low as $11 per unit. Its latest device, the Mi Band Pulse, retailing for $13, has an added feature of monitoring a user’s heart rate. IDC notes Xiaomi’s credo of selling inexpensive wares puts it “on a more even playing field with other vendors, but not enough to stand out against the crowded market.”

For Samsung, the Gear S2 was a pivotal item in its wearable technology segment, capturing the public’s attention with its bezel-based user interface and optional cellular connectivity. Samsung is now experimenting in producing items like a smart belt, a NFC-connected suit, and even footwear.

Garmin’s sports-oriented business strategy made it a key player in the wearable technology market. Currently, it has devices that specifically cater to runners, golfers, swimmers, citizen athletes, among others. Just recently, Garmin announced its Varia Vision technology, “an augmented reality display that mounts to a pair of sunglasses for cyclists.”

–Eugene Y. Santos