Sales of wearables will grow from 29 million in 2014 to 172 million in 2018, with a spike in 2015. The most popular devices will be smartwatches and fitness trackers. This is according to CCS Insight’s latest global wearables forecast.
The next 12 months will be a transformative year for the wearables market thanks to the arrival of the Apple Watch. This highly anticipated smartwatch will create a frenzy of demand, catapulting it almost instantaneously to be the most successful smartwatch ever. CCS Insight expects Apple to employ its full marketing arsenal and the power of its brand to create another must-have status symbol.
CCS Insight projects Apple will account for a quarter of the wearables market in 2015, selling around 20 million Apple Watches by the end of the year. This is equivalent to about 7% of those who own a compatible iPhone at the time of the product’s launch. The current love affair affluent US consumers have with the iPhone guarantees a strong start for the Apple Watch in its home market. However, if sales of the Apple Watch fail to meet expectations it could hurt the whole smartwatch market.
Last year confirmed that North America will remain the biggest market for wearables in the near term. This region accounted for more than half of global sales in 2014 and that momentum continues in 2015.
Commenting, Ben Wood, CCS Insight’s Chief of Research, stated “The Apple Watch will be instrumental in taking the wearables market to the next level of growth. If successful, it’ll create a rising tide that will lift the whole market.”
CCS Insight’s consumer surveys indicate extremely high levels of awareness of wearable devices, but the challenge is translating this into sales. Wood continues, “People without an iPhone will still have a huge choice of alternative wearables. If the Apple Watch performs as well as expected, its halo effect will result in a sales bonanza in the second half of 2015, with record-breaking shipments in the important fourth quarter.”
While the Apple Watch will be in the spotlight this year, fitness bands from companies such as Fitbit and Jawbone will continue to dominate the wearables market, building on their explosive growth in 2014. CCS Insight analyst George Jijiashvili observes, “We expect sales of fitness and activity devices to double in 2015 to 40 million units. In contrast to many other commentators, we don’t believe smartwatches will dent sales of fitness products in the short term. Smart fitness devices do one thing and do it well: they measure activity with the goal of improving owners’ well-being. This, combined with lower retail prices, longer battery life and a strong head start in terms of adoption, suggests that these devices will outperform smartwatches for several years to come.”
Action cameras are a much-forgotten part of the wearables market. They were a central product in the market’s early stages and remained the second-biggest category in 2014. Almost 6 million units were sold worldwide in 2014, buoyed by the success of market leader GoPro. Although CCS Insight predicts continued growth in the wearable camera segment boosted by more-affordable and capable products, the near-universal access to cameras on smartphones will limit total sales.
Beyond the well-known brands and types of wearable device, CCS Insight has observed a steady flow of weird and wonderful new products that it defines as the “long tail” of wearables. This category includes smart clothing, intelligent shoes and insoles, jewellery, adhesive sensors and patches, and even sex toys. Many of these devices are developed as crowd-funded projects and few will succeed. They underline the fact that the wearables market is still in its early stages and despite the explosive growth it will be dwarfed by the 1.5 billion smartphone shipments that CCS Insight forecasts in 2015.
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