Watches and hearables are set to leave fitness trackers and smart clothes behind

Sorry, smart clothing and fitness trackers
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The world of wearables is set to change in the coming years. We already know that the market is set to double by 2021, but that market is also huge - there are smartwatches and hybrids and hearables and smart clothing. Which ones will rise to the top, and which ones will fall to the wayside?

A new big of research from IDC sheds some light. The biggest loser is expected to be fitness trackers, which are easily attainable - especially in emerging markets - but will be cannibalized by the increasing focus on smartwatches. There's a reason why Fitbit is going big on the Ionic, after all.

Read this: The best smartwatch 2021

Fitness trackers, according to IDC's research, will see single-digit growth, going from 45 million shipments in 2017 to 47.7 million shipments in 2021. That will see its marketshare drop from 39.8% in 2017 to 21.5% in 2021.

Smartwatches and hybrid watches will make up most of the growth in the wearable market. A lot of this is because smartwatches and hybrids can do the health-based features that make fitness trackers popular, but also have the benefit of added fashion appeal and more features, like apps and music, and, in the case of the burgeoning kids smartwatch market in China, games.

Hybrids will see shipments in 2021 rise to 78 million, up from 29.9 million in 2017, while smartwatches will go from 31.6 million shipments in 2017 to 71.5 million in 2021. Together, they will account for 67.2% of the wearable market in 2021.

Then there are hearables, which IDC says will increasingly offer either fitness tracking or audio augmentation. That segment is set to go from 1.7 million shipments in 2017 to 10.6 million in 2021. Smart clothing is also set to grow, going from 2.4 million in 2017 to 11.5 million in 2021, but IDC warns that the primary driver will be step-counting shoes. Sensor-laden clothes, like the Levi's Commuter Jacket, will still have potential, but they're likely to have limited use that mimics features people already have on their smartwatches and hearables, making them a tough buy for most people.

In total, the next four years will see wearables continue to grow, doubling its market size - from 113.2 million units shipped in 2017 to 222.3 million units shipped in 2021. This massive growth is why even though companies like Fitbit are stumbling a bit, investors see the growth potential as a positive.

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Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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