Global shipments of connected wearables are forecast to grow from 116.8 million units in 2018 to reach 238.5 million units in 2023, representing a CAGR of 15.4%, according to research firm Berg Insights.
Bluetooth will remain the primary connectivity option in the coming years.
A total of 67.7 million of the wearables sold in 2023 are forecast to incorporate embedded cellular connectivity, mainly in the smartwatch and telecare and medical device categories.
The connected fitness & activity tracker segment is led by China's Xiaomi, which has been successful with its Mi Band fitness tracker. Fitbit, a pioneer in the segment, is still also among the largest vendors in the segment along with Huawei and Garmin.
In 2018, shipments of connected fitness & activity tracker reached 65 million units.
This product category is now facing fierce competition from smart watches that in most cases include activity tracking features. Apple entered the connected wearables market in the second quarter of 2015 and quickly became the leading smartwatch vendor.
In 2018, Apple accounted for almost half of the total 45.5 million smartwatches sold during the year.
“Apple continues to hold a firm grip on the smartwatch market and is at the forefront of innovation in the industry” says Martin Bäckman, IoT Analyst at Berg Insight. The competition has responded with increasingly capable and attractive devices from Wear OS vendors including Fossil, LG and Huawei as well as from vendors betting on other platforms such as Fitbit and Samsung.
The smartwatch segment is expected to surpass fitness & activity trackers and become the largest device category within wearable technology in terms of shipments in 2021.
“Technology advancements, increased consumer awareness and wide availability of devices in different price segments will enable smartwatches to reach shipments of 117.7 million units in 2023,” concludes Bäckman.
Sales of smart glasses and head-mounted displays have so far been modest, but promising use cases in professional markets as well as in niche consumer markets will enable it to become a sizeable connected wearable device category in the next five years.
A number of vendors including Daqri, ODG, Epson, Google, Microsoft, Kopin and Vuzix are active in the segment. Standalone VR headsets from companies such as Oculus and HTC aimed for the consumer market are gaining traction and accounted for a large share of the total 1.5 million devices shipped in the segment during 2018.
Berg Insight forecasts that shipments of smart glasses and head-mounted displays will reach 11.9 million units by 2023.
Annual shipments of medical devices and mobile telecare/mPERS devices are forecast to grow from 1.8 million devices in 2018 to 6.9 million devices in 2023. The segment includes wearables such as cardiac rhythm management devices, ECG monitors and mobile telecare devices.
Finally, annual shipments of wearables not covered by the above product categories such as authentication and gestures devices, smart rings, wrist-worn computers and scanners, smart jewellery and connected prosthetics are predicted to grow from 3.0 million units in 2018 to reach 13.0 million units in 2023.