Basic and smart wearable band shipments increased dramatically in the second half of 2013, with analysts at Canalys predicting a significant acceleration of the trend in 2014. Indeed, over 17 million wearable bands are forecast to ship this year, driven primarily by devices with wearable-specific sensors.
According to Canalys analyst Chris Jones, basic band vendors boast greater wearable expertise and have shipped more numbers to date. Nevertheless, the category of smart bands is already growing faster than its basic counterpart.
“Increasingly, smart bands will adopt basic band features as the two categories converge,” he confirmed.
Though currently a relatively small market serving fitness enthusiasts, wearable bands represent a massive opportunity in the medical and wellness segment. Indeed, 2014 will be the year that wearables become a key consumer technology, with the smart band segment expected to reach 8 million annual shipments. More specifically, Canalys estimates this number will grow to over 23 million units by 2015 and over 45 million by 2017.
“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 well-being they will bring to users, having a computer on your wrist will become increasingly common.”
To be sure, Canalys analysts say high-margin smart bands that incorporate sophisticated sensor technology will offer vendors enormous profit potential.
“Android will be critical for developing the smart band app ecosystem, though significant changes will be required before it is suitable for wearable devices,” Matte concluded. “[We] expect Android to enter the smart band market soon in a meaningful way. [Of course], battery life and quality of sensor data will [also] be vital metrics of success for all smart bands.”