Thanks in large part to Apple, sales of wearables will grow from 29 million in 2014 to 172 million in 2018, predicts market research firm CCS Insight. The industry watcher is also forecasting a spike in 2015, with smart watches and fitness trackers leading the way.
Transformative. That’s the word CCS uses to describe the next 12 months for the wearables market. The firm credits the highly anticipated Apple Watch with creating what it expects to be a “frenzy of demand” for the most successful smart watch ever to hit the market.
"The Apple Watch will be instrumental in taking the wearables market to the next level of growth,” said Ben Wood, CCS Insight's Chief of Research. “If successful, it'll create a rising tide that will lift the whole market."
What if Apple Watch Tanks?
Apple will account for a quarter of the wearables market in 2015, selling about 20 million Apple Watches by the end of 2015, according to CCS. This equals about 7 percent of those who own a compatible iPhone at the time the smart watch is launched.
"People without an iPhone will still have a huge choice of alternative wearables,” Wood says. “If the Apple Watch performs as well as expected, its halo effect will result in a sales bonanza in the second half of 2015, with record-breaking shipments in the important fourth quarter."
CCS expects the hunger that affluent American consumers have for the iPhone to make for a strong start for the Apple Watch in the United States. Of course, if CCS is wrong and Apple Watch sales fail to live up to the hype, it could dampen the entire wearables market.
Apple Pulls Health Monitoring
While the Apple Watch will be in the spotlight this year, CCS said fitness bands from companies such as Fitbit and Jawbone will continue dominating the wearables market, building on their explosive growth in 2014.
"We expect sales of fitness and activity devices to double in 2015 to 40 million units,” said CCS Insight analyst George Jijiashvili. “In contrast to many other commentators, we don't believe smart watches will dent sales of fitness products in the short term. Smart fitness devices do one thing and do it well: they measure activity with the goal of improving owners' well-being. This, combined with lower retail prices, longer battery life and a strong head start in terms of adoption, suggests that these devices will outperform smart watches for several years to come."
Despite so much opportunity in fitness, Apple is reportedly moving to scrap health-monitoring features from its smart watch. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Apple experimented with ways to detect blood pressure and other health issues but failed to meet regulatory standards.
We turned to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, to get his take on the news. He told us the Apple Watch is the company’s first step on the wearables' path and it wants to launch its product right.
“In version 2, 3 and 4, they can add additional features to the smart watch. Apple is wading into regulated territory, which they haven’t been in before. It shows us what regulation does. It slows things down and takes features out,” Entner said. “I think this is another 100-meter dash in the marathon for them. They just have to work through the regulatory issues.”