Worldwide wearable shipments to reach 173.4 million by 2019

IDC table

Wearable device shipments — including both basic and smart wearables — will reach 76.1 million units in 2015, up 163.6% from the 28.9 million units shipped in 2014, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. By 2019, worldwide shipments will reach 173.4 million units, resulting in a five-year CAGR of 22.9%.

At the moment, smart wearables only account for about a third of the total market, but the situation will change in 2018. “Smart wearables will quickly move from a smartphone accessory primarily focused on notifications to a more advanced wearable computer capable of doing more processing on its own,” according to IDC’s Senior Research Analyst, Jitesh Ubrani.

“Looking ahead, customers will need to pay close attention to the different operating systems that power smart wristwear,” said Ramon Llamas, Research Manager, Wearables. “Different smart wristwear operating systems are compatible with certain smartphone operating systems, and sometimes with specific models. Beyond that, experiences and available applications will widely vary. Just as competition exists for different smart wristwear models, this competition carries over into the operating system landscape.”

At the moment, smart wearables only account for about a third of the total market, but the situation will change in 2018.Here’s what IDC had to say about each of the wristwear operating systems:

  • watchOS – although it is in its first year on the market, it will quickly establish itself as the overall leader in the smart wristwear market and maintain its position throughout the forecast period. IDC expects second and third generations of the Apple Watch will drive shipment volumes later in the forecast, particularly among those customers who take a wait-and-see approach. It will, however, see its market share erode as Android Wear gains greater salience in the market.
  • Android/Android Wear will experience market-beating growth, with a combination of consumer electronics heavyweights and an expanding list of watchmaker brands also expected to launch their own smart watches in the years to come. Also helping the platform’s growth is the broader and deeper selection of devices at multiple price points that will appeal to a wide audience.
  • Pebble, one of the pioneers of the smart wristwear market, will see its market share decline even as overall volumes grow.
  • Tizen is now available to all Android smartphone users with Samsung’s decision to open up the Tizen SDK. Still, Tizen must win over customers currently looking at other watches available for Android smartphones.
  • Linux jumped into the smart wristwear market in 2014, but since then few vendors have come forward to use it as the basis of their wearables strategy. Without any foreseeable additional support, IDC believes that OEMs will favor other platforms over Linux.

Finally, there will be a small, but nonetheless significant market for smart wristwear running on a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS), which is capable of running third-party apps, but not on any of these listed platforms. These tend to be proprietary operating systems and OEMs will use them when they want to champion their own devices. These will help within specific markets or devices, but will not overtake the majority of the market.