Apple Watch to continue to lead pack as wearable device sales jump

Sales of wearable devices are expected to top 310 million this year, up 16.7% on 2016

Sales of wearable devices such as smartwatches and bluetooth headsets are set to soar this year, according to a new forecast from Gartner.

The research firm estimates that 310.4 million wearable devices will be sold in 2017, up 16.7 per cent from last year. Such sales will generate revenues of $30.5 billion, of which almost a third will come from smartwatches.

Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear are on target to record the highest volume of sales of all wearable devices, outside of bluetooth headsets over the coming years.

This year, 41.5 million smartwatches will be sold, a figure that is likely to rise to 81 million by 2021, equivalent to 16 per cent of all wearable device sales.


“Smartwatches are on pace to achieve the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2021, reaching $17.4 billion,” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.

Revenue from smartwatches is expected to be bolstered by relatively stable average selling prices of Apple Watch, which will continue to lead the pack over the coming years.

However, Gartner said that Apple's market share will decrease from approximately a third in 2016 to a quarter in 2021 as rivals such as Asus, Huawei, LG, Samsung and Sony bring out more products.

Kids’ smartwatches are forecast to emerge as a significant segment for smartwatches in the coming years with Gartner expecting them to represent 30 per cent of total smartwatch unit shipments in 2021.

Such devices are typically targeted at children in the two to 13 year-old range, before parents provide them with a smartphone.

Luxury and fashion watch brands will account for about 5 per cent of smartwatch unit sales by 2021, Gartner said.

While smartwatch sales are expected to rise, they lag behind demand for bluetooth headsets, which accounts for almost half of all wearable device sales.

Approximately 150 million such headsets are forecast to be sold this year, up 16.7 per cent versus last year. Sales are expected to growt to 206 million by 2021.

Head-mounted displays (HMD), such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) devices are expected to remain niche products with sales rising to 22 million this year and to 67 million within five years time.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist