It’s usually a good idea to take claims like this with a grain of salt, but the folks at market research firm IDC think 43.6 million smartwatches will be shipped this year… and that the number could climb to 84.1 million in 2022.

But the more interesting part of IDC’s prediction is that the company sees smartwatches taking up a growing share of the overall wearable market.

Right now the vast majority of so-called “wearable” electronics are basically fitness trackers including wristbands and “basic watches” with built-in activity tracking features, but no support for third-party apps or other features that make a device “smart.”

According to IDC, smartwatches will have about a third of the market share by the end of the year, with the rest split between wristbands, watches, and a handful of other categories including earwear (wireless headphones with step-counting and heart rate tracking, for example), and clothing with integrated sensors.

The firm thinks smartwatches will have a 38.3 percent market share by 2022… and that earwear, basic watches, and smart clothing will pick up some market share.

In other words, IDC figures fewer people are going to buy single-purpose devices like Fitbit wristbands.

Worldwide Wearables Forecast, Product Category Shipments, Market Share and CAGR, 2018 and 2022 (shipments in millions)
Product Category2018 Shipments2018 Market Share2022 Shipments2022 Market Share
Basic Watches32.424.4%59.427.1%
Basic Wristbands47.735.9%48.222%

The thinking goes that a smartwatch from Apple, Samsung, or even Fitbit can do just about everything an activity tracking wristband can do, and much more. And IDC spends a lot of time analyzing market trends, so they might be right about shifting consumer demand.

Personally I’m a bit more skeptical. Wristbands are sort of like the Kindles of the wearable space: a Kindle can’t do everything a tablet can, but it offers long battery life, an easy-to-read display, and a distraction-free experience.

I’ve been clipping activity trackers to my belt for the past few years to help motivate me to keep moving throughout the day, but I have no interest in a smartwatch that I’d have to charge every few days and which would basically replicate the functionality of my smartphone.

Maybe one day wearables will start to replace phones or offer exclusive new features that aren’t available on any other platform rather than a new way to interact with existing features. But for now, I’m going to keep my salt shaker handy.

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7 replies on “IDC: Smartwatch shipments could double in next 5 years”

  1. I have become a ‘late adopter’ after wasting years being an unpaid beta tester by jumping on the latest tech.. So now I check out ‘new’ tech after it’s a generation or two old and available as affordable ‘refurbished’ product. I have thusly acquired a Samsung Gear 2, Sony Smartwatch 3, and very recently a Samsung Gear S2 Classic with built-in cellular. I actually like all of these for different reasons, but the Gear S2 is the first which I can say is really useful and aesthetically appealing. I can now see a great future in wearables as these devices get smarter, smaller, and more connected….

  2. Unless the watches also become phones, I wouldn’t hold my breath for this prediction to come true. Watches are so 20th Century! 😉

    1. I stopped wearing a watch when I got a phone. That was in the 20th Century.

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