Gartner projects 18.4% growth in wearable device sales for 2016

Wearables such as fitness trackers and smart watches don't account for much of a muchness right now, but research powerhouse Gartner's 2016 projections give little doubt that their makers are on to something. The analysts forecast 274.6 worldwide unit sales, an 18.4% increase over 2015, which will generate $28.7 billion in revenue (and $11.5 billion of that will be from smartwatches).

According to Gartner research director Angela McIntyre, smart tick-tockers have the greatest revenue potential among wearables, but their adoption will remain "much below" smartphone sales. Giving an example, McIntyre says more than 374 million smartphones will sell in mature markets and "large urban areas" of emerging ones, making for a near 100 million units sales gap.

Looking forward, smartwatches will have stronger appeal with consumers, as they are multi-functional and aesthetically pleasing devices that can also track exercise to an acceptable degree. At the same time, fitness wearables (wristbands, garments, chest straps, sports watches, etc.) continue to gain popularity, driven in part by wellness programs in the US. Wristband makers are experimenting on their way towards competing with smartwatches, creating value propositions for wristbands beyond fitness, such as mobile payments, safety, and health.

Taking an early look towards the emerging virtual reality market, Gartner research director Brian Blau claims that head-mounted displays (HMD) will make strides toward mainstream adoption this year, thanks to offerings such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and MS HoloLens. He expects film producers and sports leagues will explore the opportunity to augment their traditional output with interactive attractions, movies, and events allowed by HMDs. Moreover, HMDs designed for enterprise will be purchased by businesses for tasks such as equipment repair, inspections, maintenance, and hands-free instructions and controls.

For those who like digits, the breakdown of Gartner's sales forecast by category and units is available below.

Forecast for Wearable Devices Worldwide (Millions of Units)

Head-mounted display0.141.43
Body-worn camera0.050.17
Bluetooth headset116.32128.5
Smart garment0.061.01
Chest strap12.8813.02
Sports watch21.0223.98
Other fitness monitors21.0721.11

source: Gartner



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