Wearable smart bands set for 350% growth in 2014
Shipments of smart wearable bands – currently a relatively small sector in the technology industry - are set to grow by mammoth proportions this year, according to independent analyst Canalys.
Its research shows that 1.6 million smart bands, such as those used to monitor fitness, were shipped in the second half of 2013, after just over 200,000 smart wearable bands shipped in the first half of the year. This represented growth of 700 percent. Shipments could reach a total of 8 million in 2014, over 23 million units by 2015, and over 45 million by 2017, Canalys predicts.
"Though currently a relatively small market serving fitness enthusiasts, wearable bands represent a massive opportunity in the medical and wellness segment. 2014 will be the year that wearables become a key consumer technology," Canalys said in a press release on Wednesday.
At the forefront of this growth will be Samsung's new smartwatch, according to the firm, which predicts a further promotional push by Samsung and the group grabbed 54 percent of market share. In September, the Korean firm released its much anticipated new smartwatch - the Galaxy Gear - to mixed reviews from analysts and technology experts at a press event in the German capital of Berlin.
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Daniel Matte, a U.S.-based mobile analyst at Canalys told CNBC at the time that the $299 price point, low battery life, limited interoperability and significant size and weight were all reasons why the product would be shunned by the public.
But Matte remains positive on its future after it gained "significant" consumer interest. Another marketing push by Samsung could help sell-through - the percentage of units shipped which are actually sold - which has so far been sluggish, he said.
For the wearable band sector as a whole, which also includes basic bands which don't have more in-depth features, 17 million are expected to be shipped in 2014, it said. Fitbit became the new leader of the wearable band market, it added, following the launch of its affordable Flex and Force bands in May and October 2013 respectively.
Available for £79.99 ($132), Fitbit's Flex device can track how many steps and distance are covered and calories burned. It can also track your sleep quality and wakes you silently in the morning. Its success means it has dominated the market for basic bands, according to Canalys, with over 50 percent market share in the second half of the year.
"Basic band (such as the Fitbit) vendors have greater wearable expertise and have shipped greater numbers to date, but smart bands (such as smart watches) are already growing faster. Increasingly, smart bands will adopt basic band features as the two categories converge," Chris Jones, the vice president and principal analyst at Canalys said in the press release.
Research last year by Credit Suisse called wearable tech "the next big thing" and predicted the industry was set to grow from around $3 billion to $5 billion today to $50 billion within five years.
Apple is believed to be waiting in the wings to launch a new product too. Alex Gauna, managing director at JMP Securities, told CNBC earlier this month that an Apple iWatch could be introduced along with the iPhone 6 later this year and may eventually be more popular than Samsung's.
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—By Matt Clinch, Assistant Producer, CNBC.com