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Global wearables market takes big leap forward in Q4 2015


By Doug Zanger, Americas Editor

February 26, 2016 | 3 min read

Based on recent data, It looks like this may be the beginning of the marketing industry deeming it “the year of the wearable” after all. According to Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corporation (IDC), the worldwide wearables market leapt 126.9 per cent in Q4 2015 and 171.6 per cent for the entire year, based on units shipped.

"Triple-digit growth highlights growing interest in the wearables market from both end-users and vendors," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's wearables team. "It shows that wearables are not just for the technophiles and early adopters; wearables can exist and are welcome in the mass market. And since wearables have yet to fully penetrate the mass market, there is still plenty of room for growth in multiple vectors: new vendors, form factors, applications, and use cases. This will help propel the market further.”

Fitbit was the undisputed global leader of wearable devices, with 8.1m shipped, due to a well-segmented device portfolio, a fast-growing corporate wellness program and solid, extended global market reach.

Apple, who shipped 4.1m Watch units in Q4 of 2015, padded their efforts through strong holiday promotions, but only grew slightly from Q3 2015 and total revenues, according to the report, have yet to counterbalance sluggish growth and declines from other Apple product categories. The next-generation Apple Watch (which could be announced at a March 2016 event, or pushed even further, into September 2016) could raise expectations in subsequent quarters.

Xiaomi shipped 2.7m Mi Band units and their focus on inexpensive fitness trackers (as low as $11) resonated with the Chinese market.

Samsung and Garmin battled for fourth position in the quarter, with the latter eking out the win due to volumes of its Gear S2 and continued strength of other legacy devices such as the Gear S and the two-year old Gear Fit. Garmin performed well with more specialized devices for runners, golfers, swimmers, citizen athletes, and followers of other activities. Recently the company announced Varia Vision, an augmented reality display that mounts to a pair of sunglasses for cyclists.

Though functionality is a hallmark of these kinds of devices, Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC mobile device trackers indicated that other factors will ultimately herald success for manufacturers.

"Fashion and design will play an equally important role in increasing adoption. Simply encrusting your watch with gold and jewels is not going to cut it. Rather forming partnerships with notable fashion icons, a route taken by Fitbit (with Tory Burch and others) and Apple (with Hermès), is far more likely to succeed.”

Moreover, there is ample opportunity for brands that aren’t necessarily just focusing on wrists.

"It's also worth noting that the wearables market isn't just about smartwatches and fitness bands," said Ubrani. "Though the top 5 certainly dominate with wrist-worn devices, there's been an immense amount of growth in other form factors like clothing, footwear, and eyewear – form factors that arguably require even more fashion sense than watches or bands."

Infographic: The Global Wearables Market in 2015  | Statista

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