The wearable market has been growing steadily over the past couple years, with major new players like Apple entering the realm alongside a host of smaller companies and startups. It's not done growing yet, not by a longshot. According to a new report from IDC, the wearable market is set to double by 2021.
"The wearable market is entering a new phase," said Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC's wearables team. "Since the market's inception, it's been a matter of getting product out there to generate awareness and interest." Now, says IDC, it's about getting the experience right with better designs to more insightful data.
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Over the past year or so, we've seen that play out in real time. Apple and Google, for instance, went back and improved both watchOS and Android Wear, better aligning it with what people want from wearable devices. IDC actually expects smartwatches to continue dominating the wearable market, but not necessarily the high-end smartwatches that allow you to run third-party apps. Instead, it sees basic smartwatches, like hybrids, outpacing more traditional smartwatches as watchmakers shift their resources.
Beyond that, smart clothing and hearables are the biggest boom categories. We've already heard that both categories are set to surge in the coming years as companies better figure out the technology and costs come down, making it easier to make smart clothes and hearables.
The one category that's expected to slow down is the wrist band market, which includes devices like fitness trackers. Good, low cost options will become more viable, which will allow consumers to jump to more multifunction options when they're ready, making this a kind of wearable stepping stone, according to IDC.
IDC expects smartwatches to go from 71.4 million shipments in 2017 to 161 million in 2021. Smart clothing will boom from 3.3 million in 2017 to 21.6 million in 2021. Hearables will go from 1.6 million to 4 million, and wrist bands will go from 47.6 million to 52.2 million. Overall, wearables will go from 125.5 million in 2017 to 240.1 million in 2021. A new phase of wearables indeed.
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