Apple's Airpods and Apple Watch

According to IDC’s latest worldwide wearable report, the market for body-worn devices keeps growing, with 222.9 million units on track to ship this year and reach 302.3 million units in 2023.

The research firm attributes that growth to smartwatches and ear devices, which it believes will represent more than 70 percent of wearable shipments over the next four years.

“In addition to the proliferation of devices is the expansion of wearables use cases,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables team. “Smartwatches, as always, will still tell you the time, but will move deeper into health and fitness and connect with multiple applications and systems, both at work and within the home. Ear-worn devices, while still centered on providing audio, will nudge into other areas like language translation, smart assistant deployment and coaching.”

That may be great news for smartwatch-makers like Fossil and its array of brand partners, but Apple, the market leader, could stand the most to gain.

On the report’s smartwatch front, Apple’s lead looks largely unchallenged. The Apple Watch is expected grab more than a quarter of the market in 2023, at nearly 26 percent.

Ear-oriented gadgets are expected to jump, from this year’s estimated 72 million units to 105.3 million over the same four years.

A key reason for the rise of so-called “hearables” is an expanding list of features, like voice assistant control, translation and advanced health tracking, as some smartbuds and similar devices pack sensors capable of more sophisticated readings and measurements.

Some products also tout unique audio features, like those aimed at helping users with hearing loss or providing augmented or 3-D hearing, with special effects or highly tuned directional sound.

But on this front, too, Apple might be a tough competitor to beat, thanks to its Airpod wireless earbuds — which were recently updated in March — and a growing featureset, such as iOS assistive listening. The tech giant also owns Beats, which has been earning positive reviews and coverage of its most recent Powerbeats Pro model.

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