IDC: Apple Watch to lead smartwatch growth through at least 2023

Apple Watch Series 4 in a Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Space Black Milanese Loop (40mm and 44mm)
Apple Watch Series 4 in a
Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Space Black Milanese Loop (40mm and 44mm)

The market for wearable devices is on track to reach global shipments of 222.9 million units in 2019, growing to 302.3 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9%, according to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Behind that growth is the propagation of smartwatches and ear-worn devices, which will account for more than 70% of all wearable shipments by 2023.

“Not only is the market diversifying in terms of form factors, but it is also diversifying in terms of connectivity and distribution,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers. “Among all watches, close to half will have the ability to connect to a cellular network by 2023 as consumers along with enterprises and healthcare look to free the watch from the phone and as telcos push forward subsidies or financing options for watches with cellular service.”

“In addition to the proliferation of devices is the expansion of wearables use cases,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables team. “Smartwatches, as always, will still tell you the time, but will move deeper into health and fitness and connect with multiple applications and systems, both at work and within the home. Ear-worn devices, while still centered on providing audio, will nudge into other areas like language translation, smart assistant deployment, and coaching.”

Product Category Highlights

Watches are forecast to grow from 91.8 million units in 2019 to 131.6 million in 2023 with a five-year CAGR of 9.4%. Apple is expected to lead the way, capturing 25.9% share of all watches in 2023. Beyond Apple will be a variety of brands running different operating systems, including Android, WearOS, Tizen, and others. Not only will smartwatches serve as health and fitness tools for consumers and enterprises, but other use cases, such as parental tracking of their kids’ location or the incorporation of watches into the smart home ecosystem, are also expected to proliferate.

Ear-worn devices are expected to grow from 72 million units in 2019 to 105.3 million in 2023. While many of these will be used as the front end to smart assistants or be used to track health-related metrics, IDC also expects brands to push forth added benefits such as allowing consumers the ability to cope with hearing loss or giving users the ability to fine tune their daily auditory experience.

Wristbands will see flat shipment growth throughout the 2019-2013 forecast with a CAGR of 0.3%. Chinese brands such as Xiaomi and Huawei have been leading this market and more than half of all wristbands are expected to be shipped in China. Meanwhile, mature markets such as North America and Western Europe are expected to see declining shipments as users transition to smartwatches.

Worldwide Wearables Forecast by Product Category, including Shipments, Market Share, and 2019-2023 CAGR (shipments in millions)

IDC: Worldwide Wearables Forecast by Product Category, including Shipments, Market Share, and 2019-2023 CAGR
Source: IDC Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, June 19, 2019

Note: All figures represent forecast data.

Source: International Data Corporation

MacDailyNews Take: With what is obviously a nice report for Apple Watch and, implicitly, AirPods, we won’t mention some of IDC’s other predictions…

Oh, of course we will!

The fact is that one year is too much to accurately forecast in a nascent market like wearables, much less five.

Exhibit A:
IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2015 – June 10, 2011

Exhibit B:
IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2016 – June 6, 2012

Exhibit C:
IDC: Windows Phone will not surpass Apple’s iOS by 2018 – December 2, 2014

We’re not saying that IDC’s report won’t come true, just that predicting market share five years out, especially in young markets like wearables, is basically just for fun.

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