A Brighter Future for Wearables after Another Strong Year

  • Wearables have enjoyed a strong year of growth in 2021, with shipments rising by 20%
  • Apple continues to lead the smartwatch pack, but other players are set to gain from growing adoption of smartwatches by Android users
  • Shipments of wrist-worn devices will exceed 400 million in 2026, leaping 73% from 2021

London, 28 February 2022: With a 20% rise in wearables shipments, record Apple Watch sales and strong foundations being laid for Wear OS smartwatches, 2021 was a bright year for smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Globally, CCS Insight estimates that 232 million wearables were shipped in 2021, according to its latest market forecast. “Despite turbulence from the Covid-19 pandemic clouding the technology market, wearables have shone through as an area of growth”, notes James Manning Smith, Senior Analyst.

By 2026, the research firm forecasts just over 400 million smart wearable devices will be sold worldwide. Manning Smith added, “We expect wearables ownership will double in the next five years and by 2026, 1.3 billion people globally will own a smartwatch or fitness tracker. This is a major opportunity for hardware manufacturers and network operators, with demand for cellular-enabled wearables also delivering strong growth”.

Smartwatches saw greater adoption than fitness trackers in 2021, thanks to their advanced functionality, particularly in health and fitness tracking. Sales of smartwatches grew 24% during the year, reaching 143 million units. By 2026, CCS Insight expects the market to expand to 266 million shipments. “Interest in fitness and well-being, which was undoubtedly bolstered by the pandemic, will be an underlying driver for wearables over the next five years”, Manning Smith observes, “but as competition heats up, we expect more novel and versatile uses for smartwatches to emerge, making them more attractive”.

Apple continued to lead the market in 2021. CCS Insight estimates it shipped 52 million watches during the year, setting another annual record as interest in the Apple Watch grew worldwide. This wasn’t enough, however, to avoid a fall in Apple’s share of the smartwatch market. As Android smartphone users start to show more interest in smartwatches, Samsung saw a positive sales trajectory in 2021, with its latest Galaxy Watch, which now uses Google’s Wear OS platform, proving a hit with owners of Samsung smartphones.

Despite its woes in the international technology market, Huawei recorded a solid year for its smartwatch product lines, with shipments rising 19%. Although the Chinese brand has been weakened internationally, homegrown support fuelled strong demand for Huawei smartwatches, helping the company retain its place as a leading wearables player.

Smartwatch growth wasn’t limited to Samsung and Apple, with other Android-powered brands also making headway. “In 2021, we saw increased activity by Chinese brands”, Manning Smith commented. “The likes of Xiaomi and Oppo have built on the strong smartphone presence they’ve built in the past few years to push their line-up of wearable products, particularly in growth markets such as India and the Middle East”.

Momentum for Android and Wear OS-powered smartwatches in 2021 is a taste of things to come in the next few years. Google is expected to step up its efforts in the smartwatch space by expanding its Wear OS platform and with a rumoured launch of a Pixel smartwatch. And other manufacturers are poised to target the sizeable community of Android smartphone users with an improved smartwatch experience, alongside a wider choice of smartwatches.

Although growth in smartwatches is certainly the headline trend for wearables in 2021, the fitness tracker market is also flourishing, offering more affordable options for people looking to dip their toes into health-tracking technology. “Fitness trackers saw 14% growth in 2021, hitting 89 million units during the year and by 2026, we expect the market to grow to 127 million units”, Manning Smith notes.

The wearables market is in a fantastic position for growth. CCS Insight expects more brands to recognize this and jump in during the years ahead, driving momentum in all device categories, from watches aimed at kids and senior citizens, to fitness trackers and mass-market smartwatches.

A summary of CCS Insight’s new forecast is presented below.

More details of CCS Insight’s extensive wearables research service can be found at: www.ccsinsight.com/research-areas/wearables/

Notes to editors

CCS Insight is a leading provider of research on the wearables market. This forecast and the user survey are part of a broader suite of research into wearables, including an extensive database of devices in this area, regular reports and updates on the latest announcements, events and news.

About CCS Insight

CCS Insight is a global analyst company focussing on current and future trends in technology. It provides comprehensive services that are tailored to meet the needs of individual clients, helping them make sense of the connected world. Follow @CCSInsight on Twitter or learn more at www.ccsinsight.com.

For further information contact:
Aylin Karanis
Harvard PR
Tel: + 44 (0) 7385023639
E-mail: ccsinsight@harvard.co.uk

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