Wearables are catching on to what every stylist already knows — that a good item can become great with the right pairing. For the connected wrist, research firm IDC believes that voice assistants are increasingly looking like the ideal match.
“Though still in its infancy, the integration of these assistants with wearables opens up new use cases,” said research manager Jitesh Ubrani of IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers unit in the firm’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report. The effect turns devices like smartwatches and fitness bands into a voice-powered mission control for smart home systems, personal health or wellness coaching and other scenarios.
The wearables market has already seen high-profile brands, such as Kate Spade and Michael Kors, embrace Google Assistant through Wear OS support in its latest smartwatches. Amazon’s mobile accessory development kit, introduced last year, made it easier for device makers to pack Alexa into all sorts of gadgets heading to wrists, faces and ears. And while Siri’s fate may be tied to the Apple Watch, that may be good news, since it’s part of a growing area of the tech giant’s business.
Notably, IDC also singled out connected clothing as another area to watch. The emerging category — rooted mainly in step-counting shoes and the like — have been big in China. But with players such as Nike Inc. and Under Armour Inc. gaining ground in other regions, the firm believes its popularity is slowly spreading.
If athletes don’t flock to kicks or jackets that quantify fitness, then employers might. Over time, IDC expects companies to invest in the tech to keep an eye on employees in hazardous environments.
In general, the report casts the trajectory of wearables — which includes everything from connected watches to wireless earbuds — as rather solid, with double-digit growth expected in the foreseeable future. By the close of this year, the firm projects that the market will increase 15.3 percent over last year, reaching 198.5 million units, and that by 2023, shipments will hit 279 million units.
The proliferation of smartwatches, ear-worn devices and wristbands will drive this momentum, the firm said, along with health care’s growing adoption of the devices.
Watches, in particular, made for a massive chunk of the market last year, accounting for “44.2 percent of the entire wearables market in 2018 and its share is anticipated to grow throughout the forecast, reaching 47.1 percent in 2023,” according to the report.
The Apple Watch is expected to remain tops on the list for the category, though it will face growing competition from Android and Wear OS devices. By 2023, IDC believes WatchOS will account for 27.5 percent of all watches.
Beyond the wrist, hearables — alternately known as “smart buds” or “smart headphones” — are emerging as a major growth segment. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given that many are also coming equipped with voice assistants as well. Fans of wristbands, however, may be disappointed, as they’re expected to cool off.