Has Apple Watch finally kickstarted interest in wearable devices?

Sales of fitness trackers and VR headsets also set for rapid growth


Led by the Apple Watch, 66 million smartwatches will be sold in 2017.

Image: Apple

The rise of the Apple Watch, fitness trackers, and virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift will contribute to sales of wearable devices rising by almost one fifth during 2016, Gartner has suggested.

A total of 232 million wearable devices were sold during 2015, with the figure expected to rise by 18.4 percent to 274 million in 2016. Analysts predict total sales will then reach 322 million in 2017.

According to the Gartner report, Forecast: Wearable Electronic Devices, Worldwide, 2016, the largest growth area for wearable technology will be the smartwatch, with the number of sales in 2017 predicted to be 66 million -- over double the 30 million sold globally during 2015. Figures for 2016 are expected to be around 50 million.

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The rise in sales of wearable electronic devices is set to generate over $28bn in revenue during 2016, claims Gartner, with smartwatch adoption alone contributing $11.5 billion to that figure.

According to Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, it's the impact of Apple "popularising wearables as a lifestyle trend" which is set to have the largest impact on device sales.

"Smartwatches have the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2019, reaching $17.5 billion," said McInytre, although she warned that global wearable devices sales will remain dwarfed by sales figures for smartphones.

Gartner figures suggest that 30 million internet-connected wristbands were sold during 2015 and the analyst estimates a rise in sales of around 50 per cent by next year, when it's expected 44 million such devices will be sold. Figures for this year suggest slower growth, with sales of 35 million, a rise of five million compared to last year.

Nonetheless, sale of virtual reality headsets are expected to boom with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, and Microsoft HoloLens set to provide new ways of playing video games and new business applications. Sales are expected to reach almost 1.5 million in 2016, rising to over six million in 2017.

"Film producers and sports leagues will augment their traditional content through HMDs to enhance their customer experiences by creating interactive attractions, movies, and sporting events that make the content more personal and meaningful," said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

But despite the predicted boom in sales of smartwatches, fitness trackeres, and HMDs, Gartner expects Bluetooth headsets to continue to account for the largest proportion of wearable devices sold. During 2015, 116 million Bluetooth headsets were sold and in 2017 sales are expected to rise to 139 million.

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