Commentary

111 Million Wearables To Ship Next Year; Smartwatches Going Standalone

Wearable devices are going to get a lot smarter and there are going to be many more of them coming.

There will be 111 million wearables shipped next year, an increase from the 80 million that hit the market this year, according to a new global tally by IDC.

But the big news is the evolution of the actual wearables as they become more standalone devices without the smartphone connection required today.

The most common wearables today are fairly basic, such as fitness trackers like those from Fitbit and Jawbone.

But over the next few years, there will be a proliferation of form factors and device types such as smarter clothing, eyewear and even ear-worn devices (yes, hearables), all of which are in the early stages of mass adoption, according to IDC.

Smartwatches will continue to be the most popular type of wearable, with 34 million of them shipping next year, up from the 21 million this year. By 2019, expect 88 million smartwatches to be shipping.

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But the smartwatch of the future will not be anything like the smartwatch of today.

Smartwatches already have evolved from being extensions of the smartphone to wearable computers capable of communications, notifications, applications and various other functions.

But in the future, cellular connectivity, health sensors and third-party applications will enter the smartwatch with the brains of the watch then managing all of the tasks and processes. Rather than a smartphone being Bluetooth-tethered to the watch, the smartwatch will become the stand-alone brain on the wrist.

And as a new, small screen, up-close-and-personal marketing will take on a whole new meaning. For some consumers, the worn device will become a primary screen.

As to brands of smartwatch, Apple leads the way, at least for the next four years projected by IDC, followed by Android.

Of smartwatches shipped this year, 13 million were Apple devices and 3 million were Android Wear. By 2019, Apple will account for 51% of smartwatches shipped and Android Wear 39%. All other brands are comparatively small.

IBM Watson Trend has consistently identified the Apple Watch as the number one item on shoppers’ lists and as of today it remains in that position.

With new, transformational features coming down the road, many of the smartwatches under the tree this year will be just the beginning.

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