The wearables market is poised for rapid growth driven by fitness apps and “smart” wearables that can run third-party apps, according to new forecast data from IDC Corp.

With new vendors, new devices and greater end-user awareness, IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker forecasts that vendors will ship some 45.7 million units in 2015, an impressive 133.4 per cent increase from the 19.6 million shipped in 2014. And by 2014, IDC projects shipment volumes to reach 126.1 million units, for a five-year compound annual growth rate of 45.1 per cent.

Leading the way, said IDC, will be smart wearables capable of running third-party applications, such as the Samsung Gear, Apple Watch and Motorola Moto 360, meaning to be successful vendors will need to encourage a developer eco-system around their smart wearables. The smart wearables market is expected to reach 25.7 million units shipped in 2015 thanks to a number of new product releases, while 20 million basic wearables will be shipped.

“Smart wearables are about to take a major step forward with the launch of the Apple Watch this year,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s wearables team, in a statement. “The Apple Watch raises the profile of wearables in general and there are many vendors and devices that are eager to share the spotlight. Basic wearables, meanwhile, will not disappear. In fact, we anticipate continued growth here as many segments of the market seek out simple, single-use wearable devices.”

Where are we wearing wearables? Primarily on our wrists, as bands, bracelets and watches. Wrist-worn wearables were 90.4 per cent of shipments in 2014, and are projected to still be 80.4 per cent of the market in 2019. This is where vendors have focused most of their development efforts to date. Next (but well behind) are modular wearable devices, which can be worn on any part of the body with a clip or a strap, which often function as use specific devices. Clothing, eye wear, and ear wear are the other categories being tracked. Modular is projected to have 5.3 per cent of shipments in 2019, with the rest under five per cent.

“The explosion of wearable devices was clearly led by fitness bands, which until recently commanded prices that provided comfortable margins, but those days are changing,” said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Device Trackers, in a statement. “The price of these fitness bands have come down so significantly in some markets that smartphone OEMs are now bundling them with smartphones at little cost. Meanwhile, the market is quickly shifting toward higher-priced devices that offer greater functionality. While Apple’s entry into the market is symbolic, the key to success will be to create compelling use cases for the average consumer. Many users will need a good reason to replace a traditional watch or accessory with a wrist-worn device or some other form of wearable that will likely require daily charging and occasional software upgrades.”

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