The most popular wearables are basic wristbands like the Xiaomi Mi Band or Fitbit Charge.
However, such wearables are quickly becoming commodities and IDC anticipates low single-digit growth in this category throughout the forecast period.
Watches (both smart and basic) are on track to take the lead and are expected to grow from 61.5 million in 2017 to 149.5 million in 2021 as more vendors – particularly fashion brands—and cellular connectivity built into smartwatches help to drive growth in this category.
“The move from wristbands to watches introduces additional revenue opportunities for vendors and distributors as average selling prices are expected to rise,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
Basic Wristbands (fitness bands) will account for the majority of device shipments in 2017 (39.8 percent) and this category is expected to decline in share to 21.5 percent by 2021 as watches gain traction.
Smart Watches, led primarily by the Apple Watch, are expected to ship 71.5 million units by 2021, up from 31.6 million in 2017. Contributing factors include the adoption of cellular connectivity, additional SKUs from fashion brands, and the transition of kids watches from basic location tracking watches to more sophisticated watches that allow kids to play games, run apps, and communicate with friends/family.
The emerging category of sensor-laden Clothing, led mainly by step-counting shoes, will be a distant fourth as many of the features will be copies of wristbands and watches. Though newer products like the Levi’s Commuter Jacket made in partnership with Google show promise, their high price points and limited use cases make them a tough sell for the broader market.
Earwear wearables are expected to ship 10.6 million units by the end of 2021 with a 58.5 percent CAGR from 2017–2021. It’s important to note that this category excludes traditional Bluetooth headsets. It is comprised of wireless headphones that offer additional features such as fitness tracking or audio augmentation.