Wearable Tech World Feature Article
August 20, 2014

The Next Exploding Market Could be Smartwatches

It's been said before that the wrist is prime real estate when it comes to the wearable technology market, and with good reason. It's immediately accessible for most users' eyes and hands alike, and about the only other space on the body that can do likewise is the smart glasses concept. But smartwatches and smart bands are the first things that people think of in wearables, and as it turns out, also one of the first things that come up when a buying decision is in the works. A new report from CCS Insight, meanwhile, suggests that this may be the case through 2018, and potentially beyond.

The new global forecast suggests that while the market for smartwatches is already a substantial market to begin with, it's not likely to slow down any time soon. By 2018, the projections suggest, over 250 million smart wearables will be in operation, and over half of these—135 million—will be shipped just in 2018. That 250 million represents a number that's 14 times higher than comparable numbers in 2013, so it's clear this market has a lot of upside potential.

But what's particularly telling are the numbers about the form in which the market will take. Devices for the wrist will actually comprise almost nine out of 10 items shipped—87 percent—made up of 68 million smartwatches and 50 million smart bands with minimal, if any, screens involved. The clear frontrunner in the smartwatch / smart band field, meanwhile, is fitness tracking devices, mainly because of the clarity of the function served; everyone knows just what these devices are supposed to do and has a fairly general idea of how same work before even opening the box.

The biggest market for wearable devices right now is in North America, at last report, with 5.2 million such devices sold in just 2013. Meanwhile, over 40 percent—nearly half—of such devices currently in operation are doing so in North America. However, reports suggest that North America's primacy in the wearable tech market is likely to be short-lived, as Western Europe stages something of a catch-up, expected to actually be a bigger market than North America by 2016. Developing markets, meanwhile, will lag here somewhat.

However, one major wild card in the market remains to be played. Reports of Apple's entry into wearable tech markets has yet to make its appearance, and that's a development that can destabilize just about any market. Historically, Apple has the capability to change most any market it walks into, potentially permanently, so if the iWatch, the iTime, or whatever it ultimately ends up called makes an appearance between now and 2018, much of this projection could end up moot.

It's a perfectly rational point; after all, the wrist is often regarded as prime real estate for wearable devices, and should be addressed accordingly. The wrist is both immediately accessible for hands and eyes alike, as nearly no other part of the body is—outside of smart glasses, of course—and while there's room on the body for other wearable devices, such devices just don't have the same level of immediate consumer accessibility. With a little over three years' worth of development between now and 2018, though, there's no telling what could come out that would further shake up the market as we know it. Only the arrival of 2019 will tell what the wearable tech market for 2018 actually looks like, but knowing what we know about it now suggests that it's likely to be very big.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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