Apple Watch and Huawei Watch Credit: Brian Sacco
The Apple Watch dominated the wearables conversation for much of 2015 and may continue to do so with the second-generation Watch expected in 2016. Fitbit will also likely continue to hold its own in the New Year. Beyond these two safe bets, the future of dedicated activity trackers, and health and fitness wearables, is unclear.
We asked a collection of analysts, wearable technology manufacturers and other experts in the field for their takes on what to expect in 2016 and came up with these 13 trends to watch during the coming year.
1) Popularity of wearables will continue to mount
In 2015, 39.5 million U.S. adults 18 and over used wearable devices, including smartwatches and fitness trackers — an increase of 57.7 percent over 2014, according to eMarketer. That growth will continue in 2016 and beyond, with 81.7 million adults using wearables by 2018, the research firm says.
2) Smartwatches won't kill off dedicated activity trackers
Many tech industry watchers expected the Apple Watch to "unwind the fitness band business, but that hasn't happened," according to a December article in The Wall Street Journal.
Apple sold roughly 7.5 million Watches during the past two quarters, according to IDC (a CIO.com sister company). In the same period, Fitbit sold about 9.2 million fitness trackers, more than double the number of devices sold in same two quarters of 2014.
"A lot of people think multi-function devices will clobber dedicated devices," says Ramon Llamas, an IDC research manager for wearables and mobile phones. "I don't see that happening in 2016 or even in the next few years. These are two product categories that can coexist."
Consumers appreciate the relative affordability of activity trackers, which typically cost between $100 and $200, according to Llamas. Smartwatches, however, generally cost $300 or more, and most people don't feel the "value proposition is there yet," he says. "They ask, 'What can I do on a smartwatch that I can't do on my smartphone?'"
3) Fitbit will remain king of the activity trackers
Fitbit is and will continue to be the top activity tracker brand, according to The NPD Group's fall 2015 Consumers and Wearables Report. Fitbit ownership increased 13 percentage points from February to October 2015, the report says, "and it remains the only activity tracker brand that consumers request by name on a regular basis, rather than just by comparing features or style."
4) Competition will heat up for Fitbit
IDC estimates that 97 percent of China-based Xiaomi's activity tracker sales were made in the company's home country. Xiaomi's Mi Band, however, sells for about $15. That's far less than the least expensive Fitbit, the $60 Zip, and Xiaomi could become a real threat to Fitbit if it successfully expands beyond China.
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