Don't Expect A 'Wearable' Revolution

Despite Jony Ive’s best efforts, the Apple Watch has hardly achieved must-have status among many people. Yet that doesn’t mean the future of mobile won’t be “wearable.”

On the contrary, U.S. consumers are slowly but surely strapping on Apple Watches and other connected gadgets in what is looking more like an evolution than a revolution.   

While just 16% of U.S. adults owned a wearable device this year, that share is expected to double by 2018, according to a new forecast from eMarketer.  If that report is accurate, 81.7 million consumers will by then be walking around with some sort of wearable technology -- up from 39.5 million this year.

What about advertising?

Don’t expect wearables to emerge as a significant marketing channel for some time, according to eMarketer senior analyst Cathy Boyle. “The consensus among the experts we consulted was that advertising will not appear in volume on wearables until one or more of the devices attains significant market share, which makes sense considering scale is a critical aspect of digital advertising," Boyle explains in the new report.



Boyle says the success of wearables rests largely on the shoulders of app developers. “One factor that could incite more consumers to buy a wearable is the development of more apps, which played a critical role in the adoption of mobile phones and tablets.”

Not surprisingly, wearables are currently most popular among U.S. adults between 25 and 44, while fitness trends are currently driving demand.

This year, about one in four Web users between 25 and 34 are expected to use a wearable. Among 35- to 44-year-olds, that share drops slightly to 23.1%.

By 2018, about half of 25- to 34-year-olds Web users -- and 47% of 35- to 44-year-olds -- will be using wearables, according to eMarketer.

More interesting are the implications for older Americans, who in the long term are expected to be a bigger growth driver as health monitoring technology continues to improve.

Throughout eMarketer’s forecast period, U.S. adults 65 and older are actually expected to see the biggest growth rates every year for wearable adoption.

Also of note, early wearable adopters were mostly female. Yet, as the category has evolved, male consumers have overtaken their female counterparts. This year, in fact, 19.3% of male Web users are expected to use a wearable, compared to 18.2% of females.

By 2017, however, eMarketer expects females to once again overtake men in terms of number of users. By then, 34.1% of female Web users should own a wearable, compared with 33.9% of males.

The decreasing price of wearables is playing a key role in driving more women to buy them, eMarketer suggests.

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