Smartwatches vs activity trackers - Wearable fitness tech gets serious
- 14 February, 2014 19:28
Despite the rumours and hype surrounding an Apple iWatch and Samsung's Galaxy Gear the wearable tech market looks set to be dominated by activity trackers from the likes of Fitbit, Nike Fuelband and Jawbone.
As the potential for smart wearable devices continues to draw new entrants into the market, it is the sports and healthcare functionality that continues to dominate shipments and drives future wearable device adoption. Now read Best Activity Trackers 2014.
Major consumer device players including Google, Samsung, and Sony have all launched wearable devices in the past year, with Apple widely expected to follow suit this year.
"The wearable band market is really about the consumerization of health," said Canalys Analyst Daniel Matte.
"There will be exciting innovations that disrupt the medical industry this year, and with the increased awareness about personal wellbeing they will bring to users, having a computer on your wrist will become increasingly common."
"Android will be critical for developing the smart band app ecosystem, though significant changes will be required before it is suitable for wearable devices," said Matte.
"Canalys expects Android to enter the smart band market soon in a meaningful way. Battery life and quality of sensor data will be vital metrics of success for all smart bands."
The most popular device functionality is heart-rate monitoring with close to 12 million devices shipped in 2013, according to ABI Research. These are primarily single function devices that communicate with nearby hubs such as smartphones or activity sports watches.
Pedometers and activity trackers were the next two most popular devices, accounting for around 16 million devices combined in 2013.
Despite the interest and appeal for smart watches and glasses, vendors such as Garmin, Polar, Nike, FitBit and a host of others will continue to ensure that sports and activity sensing remains a key wearable device format well through 2019, says ABI. Over the next five years wearable devices will increasingly move into healthcare services as well.
Basic and smart wearable band shipments grew dramatically in the second half of 2013. Fitbit became the new leader of the wearable band market, following the launch of its affordable Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Force bands in May and October 2013 respectively. Which Fitbit is best for you?
According to analysts at Canalys Fitbit dominated the market for basic bands, with over 50 percent market share in the second half of the year. At the same time, Samsung accounted for the majority of smart band shipments according to Canalys market estimates.
"Heart rate and activity monitors will outpace shipments of smart watches and glasses for some years to come and they will also provide the essential foundation for the development of the broader wearable market," said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research.
Sports, fitness and wellness devices will increasingly be augmented by connectivity to the emerging number of smartwatches and glasses devices that become available over the next five years.
Likewise, general use wearable devices will increasingly support aspects of health monitoring.
"The interplay between health monitoring and wearable devices will be crucial in the development of both these markets," adds Collins.
"Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear with a major marketing push that gained significant consumer interest. Shipments of the device took Samsung to the top of the smart band category, though disappointing sell-through will necessitate more promotional activity in coming months," said Chris Jones, VP and Principal Analyst at Canalys.
"Basic band vendors have greater wearable expertise and have shipped greater numbers to date, but smart bands are already growing faster. Increasingly, smart bands will adopt basic band features as the two categories converge," added Jones.
Though currently a relatively small market serving fitness enthusiasts, wearable bands represent a massive opportunity in the medical and wellness segment. 2014 will be the year that wearables become a key consumer technology, as the smart band segment is estimated to reach 8 million annual shipments. Canalys estimates that this number will grow to over 23 million units by 2015, and over 45 million by 2017.