Breakthrough for wearables predicted, yet again

Wearables have been a promise for the technology industry ever since science fiction movies showcased wonderful uses for the gear, but time and time again, we’ve been disappointed. That said, CCS Insight think it’s about to kick off.

The research from CCS forecasts 71 million smartwatches will be sold in 2018, then doubling to 140 million in 2022. The wearables space on the whole is expected to grow 20% year-on-year through to 2022, becoming a $29 billion market with 243 million unit sales. Predicting the wearables boom has been a perilous game in recent years, but the general public is becoming more in-tune with future tech, just look at the growth of smart speakers, maybe this is the time for wearables, with smart watches leading the charge.

“Apple has become the market leader for smartwatches. Sales volumes have exceeded expectations and the introduction of a cellular-enabled model has pushed up the value of its sales, which we estimate at $5 billion in 2017,” said George Jijiashvili of CCS Insight.

“It’s not surprising that traditional watchmakers are looking over their shoulders nervously at Apple given the significant slice of the market it has secured in just three years. Our projections show that in 2018 Apple will come close to matching worldwide sales of Swiss-made watches, which sold 24 million units in 2017.”

The problem with smart watches to date is that they are a solution without a problem. Until recently the devices were tethered to a smartphone, but even with standalone connectivity few are likely to ditch their smartphones for the devices. The more expensive models are not going to replace traditional watches as fashion icons (not yet anyway) and the cheaper devices from manufacturers such as Fitbit are perfectly suitable for fitness fanatics. That said, the market for fitness trackers, which has largely driven wearables to date, is predicted to have weakened; new areas will be needed.

One area which could be of interest to the manufacturers is children’s watches. These could act as safety/tracking devices, while also a stepping stone for youngsters towards smartphones. A basic communications tool which prevents a child from venturing into the unholy areas of the internet could appeal to some parents. CCS estimates that 25 million of these watches were sold in China over 2017.

“The success of kids’ watches in China is impressive. There’s strong support from Chinese mobile network operators and we’re expecting further growth in 2018 as 4G networks improve to support even more advanced features,” said Jijiashvili. “Although we recorded sales of about 1 million units in the US in 2017, we don’t expect the kind of volumes we’ve seen in China. And in Europe, privacy concerns and regulatory issues have cut the market to just a few thousand units.”

Elsewhere in the wearables world, hearable devices, which are defined as smart wireless headphones, earphones or earbuds that connect to smartphones and other compatible devices, could be on the increase. We’re not 100% convinced wearables are ever going to be more than a footnote to the technology world, though AR could make a bit of difference when that technology becomes more mainstream.

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