Wearable tech market far from worn out

Despite recent questions over whether wearable tech has had its day, one analyst has forecast that smartwatch sales will double over the next four years.

Smartwatch shipments will grow from 43 million in 2017 to 86 million in 2021, according to CCS Insight, which also noted that there is “currently an air of cautious optimism” among manufacturers in this space.

This is despite another analyst, IDC, recently saying that the smartwatch market is experiencing “growing pains” after Q3 sales more than halved to 2.7 million. Market trailblazer Apple was among the worst impacted as its shipments slumped from 3.9 million to 1.1 million, IDC said.

Apple and Samsung have taken note from the recent success of fitness watches from the likes of Garmin, TomTom, Polar and Suunto, which are enjoying steady growth, George Jijiashvili, wearables analyst at CCS Insight, said.

“It’s clear that companies like Apple and Samsung have recognised the success of performance fitness watches and have implemented more and more fitness features into their own smartwatches to broaden their appeal,” he said.

“There’s currently an air of cautious optimism among smartwatch makers, especially as sales of fitness bands appear to have stalled”.

The biggest smartwatch segment in volume terms, however, are models that enable parents to track their children, which Jijiashvili said is currently primarily a Chinese phenomenon.

“We’ve witnessed explosive growth in the kids watch segment in China and estimate that 16 million units were sold in 2016 alone,” he said. “Companies such as BBK, Huawei, LeEco, ZTE and others have shipped significant numbers, and we expect growth to continue, with shipments rising to over 25 million by 2021.”

Nine per cent of full-touch smartwatches will be cellular-enabled in 2017, growing to 12 per cent by 2021, CCS Insight predicted, adding that it expects Apple to release a cellular-enabled version of the Apple Watch in 2017.