Analysts at Gartner predict that the global shipment of wearables will hit 453.19 million units in 2022, with a 25.8-percent increase in shipments from 2018 to 2019 and a 153-percent increase from 2018 to 2022. For 2019, the firm expects the total number of units shipped in the category will land at 225.12 million. Of those, around 137.23 million devices -- approximately 61-percent of the total -- are predicted to be smartwatches - either connected wristbands or sports watches. Those will be split across similar categories to those seen today but with more distinction than the current fitness wearables, sports wearables, and smartwatch groups. In effect, Gartner expects a clearer line between technology brands and traditional or fashion brands, in addition to a further divergence between standard wearables and those designed explicitly for children or special use cases such as medical monitoring. Ear-worn wearables are expected to grow significantly throughout that period as well, gaining nearly 38-percent in terms of overall shipments over the course of 2019.
By comparison, head-mounted displays are only expected to grow by just over 26.5-percent over the next year and smart clothing isn't predicted to grow more than 22.84-percent for that period. The former of those categories is additionally expected to grow in price, landing at just 80.18 million units shipped in 2022 from 34.83 million in 2019. Smart clothing follows a similar trend, according to the firm, landing at just 19.91 million units in 2022. The smallest growth rates will be seen in sports watches and wristband-style wearables. Although wrist-borne wearables will still lead in 2022, at 194.67 million units, Gartner says that 158.43 million units in ear-based wearables will ship in 2022. That would far outpace any individual category, including smartwatches, equating to approximately 30-percent of all wearable shipments. Advances in voice assistants and the usefulness of AI as well as ear-based fitness metric tracking will drive that trend.
Background: Previous reports on the state of the wearables market have been less optimistic. In June, International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted that the growth rate for wearables shipments overall would fall in at around 54.4-percent from 2018 through 2022. The total number of shipments across all categories in 2022 was only speculated to come in at approximately 199.8 million units. So there's a difference of around 98.9-percent in the predictions being made about the growth of shipments in the wearables category. At the same time, IDC has estimated that the fitness tracking wearables category would grow at a stagnant 0.4-percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 through 2022. Yet another report, from ResearchAndMarkets.com, has predicted the wearables market would only hit 289.5 million units as far out as 2023. That forecast was made in September and based on a study conducted by the firm. The CAGR over the five year period ending in 2023 was also predicted to come in at a moderate average of around 16.5-percent.
Impact: Predictions in the global market, and particularly in a relatively new and volatile market such as that for smart wearables, can be dicey under the best circumstances. IoT and AI implementations will probably continue growing substantially over the next several years, with the advance of 5G driving those and related technologies forward. It isn't unlikely that wearables will undergo a resurgence as each of those intersects on the consumer side of the market with smartphone capabilities and entertainment moving well beyond handheld devices. Those advances could also spur further growth in the use and adoption of wearables for medical data tracking and other uses that are currently considered "niche."