With vendors are rolling out new wearable devices at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it is not surprising that the market is set to boom.
In 2014, GfK noted that 13.5 million health and fitness trackers were sold globally compared to 4.1 million smartwatches. This year, that combined number is expected to jump 51.2 million units in 2015.
Last year, actual sales of health and fitness trackers (HFT) easily outstripped smartwatches. This was driven, in part, by the significantly lower average sales price of HFT, making these devices more affordable than full-feature smartwatches.
Another reason for the higher popularity of HFT (according to a GfK survey of 5000 smartphone owners across five countries) is the fact that a majority of consumers see activity tracking as being the most important function of a wearable – including a smartwatch – at the present time.
Many consumers are not yet aware of the additional benefits a smartwatch has to offer. We believe this will now change, driven by the marketing efforts of the industry this year. Added to this, there is a clear convergence of both segments, which started in the second half of 2014 – and we see this driving market growth. HFT manufacturers are introducing new models which incorporate smart functions, such as reading notifications and messages. And many new smartwatches now come with heart rate sensors and activity tracking capabilities and are being marketed as hybrid fitness devices,” said Jan Wassmann, Global Product Manager for Wearables at GfK.
GfK expects the smartwatch market, in particular, to grow massively, boosted also by a growing sub-segment of independent devices with include a SIM card to connect directly to cellular networks – making these more akin to existing smart phones.
GfK’s survey found that more than half (56 percent) of smartphone owners interviewed across five countries see this as an important capability that makes them more likely to buy a smartwatch, as it gives them the freedom to leave their smartphone at home.
In addition wearable growth is likely to be driven by more fashionable designed devices (eg analogue smartwatches) or sensors included in jewelry, which will be more appealing to female consumers – an important segment which has remained almost untapped so far.