The Global Wearables Market Is All About the Wrist

This chart shows a forecast of worldwide wearable device shipments.

In the wake of the smartphone and tablet boom, many experts predicted wearable devices to be the next big thing in consumer technology. And to a certain degree they were right: global smartwatch shipments more than tripled since 2015 and fitness tracking armbands are as popular as they are affordable. 

However, speaking of a wearables boom in general seems like a stretch when considering the numbers in more detail. According to IDC, the market’s growth thus far has been fueled almost entirely by smartwatches and wrist-worn fitness trackers, which are expected to account for 95 percent of all wearables shipped this year and to continue their reign over the market through 2022. 

Other, more futuristic devices, such as the once hyped Google Glass have failed to make an impression with mainstream consumers and faded into obscurity. One potential area of growth is the smart earwear segment, which IDC expects to grow six-fold between 2018 and 2022. Devices such as Apple’s AirPods, which are not multifunctional enough to be considered smart wearables by IDC yet, could pave the way towards a new generation of smart earwear with heart rate tracking and built-in smart assistants among the likely features of future devices.