|Looking further ahead, the IDC forecasts shipments will reach 213.6 million units in 2020, driven by smartwatches and wristbands, while clothing and eyewear will gain traction.|
"Unlike the smartphone, which consolidated multiple technologies into one device, the wearables market is a collection of disparate devices," Jitesh Ubrani, IDC Mobile Device Trackers senior research analyst, commented.
"Watches and bands are and always will be popular, but the market will clearly benefit from the emergence of additional form factors, like clothing and eyewear, that will deliver new capabilities and experiences.
"Eyewear has a clear focus on the enterprise as it stands to complement or replace existing computing devices, particularly for workers in the field or on the factory floor. Meanwhile, clothing will take aim at the consumer, offering the ability to capture new forms of descriptive and prescriptive data."
Ramon T. Llamas, IDC wearables program research manager, noted that cellular connectivity delivers wearables a variety of uses, beyond an immediate use case of making telephone calls, freeing wearables from being tethered to smartphones.
"Cellular connectivity on a wearable can transmit and receive data, including time, location and other data about a user and his or her surroundings," Llamas observed.
"Imagine what that means when tracking steps, analysing patient activity, or shopping: the information can be shared immediately with a second or third party, and the user can, in turn, receive context-appropriate information back."
Llamas stated that the wearables market's trajectory "signals a strong opportunity for developers".
"Applications increase the value and utility of a wearable, and users want to see more than just their health and fitness results," he stated. "News, weather, sports, social media and Internet of Things (IoT) applications will all have a place on a wearable.
"And, when combined with cellular connectivity, users will not have to take out their smartphones to get the latest information. All they will need to do is glance at their wearable."
Popularised by devices such as the Apple Watch and Moto 360, the IDC expects the smartwatch category to increase from 41 per cent of total wearables shipments in 2016 to 52.1 per cent in 2020, with future growth to come from basic watches providing some sort of fitness/sleep tracking while not being sophisticated enough to run third party applications on the watch itself, while traditional fashion brands will also help the segment grow.
The IDC expects the wristband category to "remain influential and accessible", driven by low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi and giants like Fitbit, however this dominance will be challenged by watches, with many watch vendors incorporating basic fitness features into their products.
Microsoft's Windows Holographic and Google's Android platform are projected to drive uptake in eye-worn devices. Initially expected to bring a transformational shift in mobile computing to select industries and job functions, the IDC anticipates some hardware providers will also offer consumer-friendly options.
"Although this category will account for less than 10 per cent of wearable device shipments by 2020, all eyes are on this lucrative category as it will account for more than 40 per cent of the total revenue of the wearables market due to the high prices for specialised commercial devices," the IDC states.
With traditional fashion and fitness brands partnering up with tech companies to deliver smarter clothing, with tech companies such as Lenovo and Samsung also branching out into this space, the IDC states that the clothing category stands to capture 7.3 per cent of the market by 2020.
Lesser known form factors, such as clip-on devices, hearables and helmets, will account for 6.1 per cent of the market in 2016 and 3.3 per cent in 2020. The IDC states that it "does not expect an immense amount of growth in this segment", however notes that "it will nonetheless bear watching as numerous vendors cater to niche audiences with creative new devices and uses".