Wearable tech is a steadfastly growing sector that to date has yet to be fully embraced by the fashion industry. Interestingly, the worldwide wearables market reached a new all-time high as shipments reached 33.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016 growing 16.9 percent year over year, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). New brands are entering the market and well-known companies are constantly refreshing their product lineups.
The wearable tech market has seen a mix of of basic wearables, such as smart watches, accessories and outerwear. Additional features and tech available on smart wearables, their utility and necessity has been questionable at best. Not to mention their lack of fashionability and often clunky design.
The weararable tech market is evolving
"Like any technology market, the wearables market is changing," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's Wearables team. "Basic wearables started out as single-purpose devices tracking footsteps and are morphing into multi-purpose wearable devices, fusing together multiple health and fitness capabilities and smartphone notifications. It's enough to blur the lines against most smart wearables, to the point where first generation smartwatches are no better than most fitness trackers.
"Meanwhile, smart wearables are also evolving," Llamas continued. "Health and fitness remains a major focus, but once these devices become connected to a cellular network, expect unique applications and communications capabilities to become available. This will also solve another key issue: freeing the device from the smartphone, creating a standalone experience."
Beyond the top 5 vendors are new entrants, including fashion icons like Fossil along with their sub-brands and emerging companies like BBK and Li-Ning, that are tapping into niche segments of the wearables market. In the case of Fossil, this happens to be as a luxury/fashion device, while BBK focuses on child-monitoring devices, and Li-Ning on step-counting shoes.
Technology is disappearing into the background as fashion gains traction
"With the entrance of multiple new vendors with strengths in different industries, the wearables market is expected to maintain a positive outlook, though much of this growth is coming from vendor push rather than consumer demand," said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. "As the technology disappears into the background, hybrid watches and other fashion accessories with fitness tracking are starting to gain traction. This presents an opportunity to sell multiple wearables to a single consumer under the guise of 'fashion.' But more importantly, it helps build an ecosystem and helps vendors provide consumers with actionable insights thanks to the large amounts of data collected behind the scenes."
2016 also proved that there is more to wearables than just wrist-worn devices. Ear-worn devices (hearables) surpassed 1 percent of all shipments for the first time in a quarter and sensor-laden clothing accounted for more than 1 percent of the entire market for the full year 2016. Though these numbers were miniscule, they show promise as numerous devices are expected from notable vendors in 2017.
The International Data Corporation is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. With more than 1,100 analysts worldwide, IDC offers global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries.
Photo credit: Apple Watch Hermes, Apple.com