​Wearable tech booms in 2021 as smartwatch users look to health features

Smartwatch and wearables sales have boomed amid the global pandemic
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Smartwatch and wearables sales have boomed amid the global pandemic, defying warnings of a slowdown.

A new report by analysts CCS Insight predicts a 20% increase in the sales of ‘wrist-worn wearables’ compared to 2020.

Smartwatches are easily the dominant force in wearables and will account for 142m (up from 115m) units in 2021, with fitness trackers still growing, with 90 million (up from 78m) sold in the year.

The analysis by CCS Insight coincides with a study of 2,000 smartwatch users by the company, which lists the key use cases of wrist wearables.

The company found that fitness tracking – steps and sleep – was top with 61%. However, a surprising 57% of users wanted health and wellbeing monitoring, showing that heart rate monitor-enabled features such as ECG, high/low heart rate detection and things like blood pressure monitoring are cutting through to smartwatch users.

And 54% of users reported sports tracking as a key feature.

Contactless payments was only used by 25% of respondents, and with smart home/voice assistants also low on the list.

CCS Insight also noted that while the cellular Apple Watch was popular in the US, and the much-reported success of connected GPS kids watches in China, other markets have been resistant to jumping in with 4G smartwatches.

"In our survey, we found that price continues to act as a real deterrent against the adoption of smartwatches with 4G LTE connectivity. Respondents told us that unless these devices come down in price, or simply cost the same as non-connected watches, they are just not that interested," said Leo Gebbie from CCS Insight:

So what of the future of smartwatches and fitness trackers?

CCS Insight sees the market nearly doubling by 2025 to 379 million units – and says that convincing Android smartphone users to jump into wearables to the same extent that iOS users have is the key.

"Google’s refreshed commitment to wearables is arguably the biggest shot in the arm that the sector could have hoped for. In teaming up with Samsung, the companies have rebuilt the Wear OS platform and will be hoping that this can unite the non-Apple market in the same way that Android has competed with iOS,” Gebbie continued.

The launch of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 with Wear OS will be an important part of that.

However, Google looks to already be fumbling the roll out of its updated operating system.

It’s slowly revealed that TicWatch and Fossil devices will run the new Wear 3 – but despite being launched in 2021, they won’t get the updated OS until an unspecified point in 2022.

Galvanizing the Android user base? Maybe next year.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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