IDC and CCS Insight outlook indicates optimism for wearables market

After a slowdown in 2016, the overall wearables market is expected to return to strong growth, according to new data from IDC’s worldwide quarterly wearable device tracker.

New vendors, emerging form factors, and an expanded number of retail outlets will drive worldwide wearable device shipments from 102.4 million in 2016 to 237.5 million in 2021, a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3%.

Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC mobile device trackers, said: “With the shift towards watches and clothing, the need of a fashionable design will take centre stage. Tech companies will be forced to step up their game and offer a wider selection of sizes, materials, and designs in order to appeal to a broader audience.

“We also expect more tech vendors to partner with fashion brands for their creativity, and equally important, their distribution network. In doing so, wearables will be made available to a previously unaware audience – one that frequents fashion outlets over tech outlets.”

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Earworn devices are also set to grow as new startups come up with innovative technology, and the traditional headphone companies incorporate additional capabilities beyond audio. Despite the anticipated growth, volumes will remain somewhat modest as the primary features of health and fitness tracking “hearables” overlap with the more popular wrist worn devices.

Elsewhere, predictions on the smart wearables market from CCS Insight states Apple will release a cellular-enabled version of the Apple Watch in 2017. This is reflected in the analyst firm’s latest forecast, which projects that 9% of full-touch smartwatches will be cellular-enabled in 2017, growing to 12% by 2021. The forecast factors in a growing proportion of replacement purchases in the smartwatch market, which will boost sales volumes in later years.

CCS Insight’s forecasts for smartwatches form part of the company’s broader wearables forecast, which encompasses fitness bands, smart clothing (including footwear), hearables and wearable cameras. This vibrant market is expected to grow in value from just over $10 billion in 2017 to almost $17 billion by 2021.

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