CCS Insight’s latest forecast of the UK market for smart wearable devices underlines the potential of this category of emerging technology. The research firm estimates that by the end of 2016 there will be about 10 million wearable devices in use in the UK; this number will triple over the next four years to almost 33 million units.
Fitness trackers, which are counted as part of CCS Insight’s quantified-self category, are by far and away the biggest by sales volume, with 1.7 million expected to be sold this year.
However, in terms of value, smartphone companions will form the largest category. Sales of smartphone companions, including smartwatches such as the Apple Watch, will be worth almost £300 million in 2016. By 2020 this type of device will account for 34 percent of the value of the wearables market, with shipments growing from 1.5 million in 2016 to 3.6 million in 2020.
George Jijiashvili, analyst for wearables at CCS Insight, commented, “Advances in design and affordability mean that this year wearables have become devices that ordinary people actually want to wear. Consumers in the UK have adopted wearable technology enthusiastically, particularly fitness trackers, which are becoming an increasingly commonplace accessory on people’s wrists.” However, Jijiashvili cautions that “the real challenge now lies in making sure people who have a wearable device keep on using it rather than abandoning it after a few months.”
Other categories of wearable device covered by CCS Insight’s latest report on the UK wearables market include augmented and virtual reality as well as wearable cameras.
Jijiashvili commented, “All eyes are on virtual reality given it’s one of the hottest new technology areas to emerge this year. There’s going to be a deluge of exciting 360-degree content widely available on Facebook and YouTube, and we’re confident consumers will be keen to try it. The arrival of several 360-degree cameras during 2016 will further fuel the explosion of what we’re calling surroundies.”
CCS Insight expects around 800,000 virtual reality headsets will be sold this year in the UK. The majority will be smartphone-based devices with a slot to insert a phone. Dedicated headsets such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Sony PlayStation VR will remain a small, but important niche, which will grow quickly to account for over a quarter of the £1 billion value that the wearables market is forecast to deliver in 2020.
Wearable cameras from brands like GoPro will see modest growth over the next five years. As they often tend to be a household purchase rather than a personal device, the potential market is somewhat limited. They also face competition from the ubiquity of cameras on phones, but CCS Insight still expects about 1.4 million units will be sold in 2020, 13 percent of which are predicted to be cellular enabled. Connected cameras will be attractive to mobile network operators, which are keen to sell more subscriptions as smartphone sales flatline.