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Apple to lead in smartwatch market share to 2021, Gartner says

Worldwide wearable device sales to grow strongly in 2017, reach more than $30bn

Like the smartphone market, smartphone sector is very segmented, with Apple holding an edge, for now.
Like the smartphone market, smartphone sector is very segmented, with Apple holding an edge, for now.

Apple's global market share in smartwatches will decrease from approximately a third in 2016 to a quarter in 2021, Gartner says in a new report.

Although the Cupertino-based giant will continue to have the greatest market share of any smartwatch provider, its share will erode as more providers enter the market.

In total, 41.5 million smartwatches will be sold in 2017 from all vendors, Gartner estimates. They are on pace to account for the highest unit sales of all wearable device form factors from 2019 to 2021, aside from Bluetooth headsets. By 2021, sales of smartwatches are estimated to total nearly 81 million units, representing 16% of total wearable device sales.

Other consumer electronics brands such as Asus, Huawei, LG, Samsung and Sony will sell only 15% of all smartwatches in 2021, lacking the consumer appeal of Apple, the report adds.

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

Revenue from smartwatches is bolstered by relatively stable average selling prices (ASPs) of Apple Watch. "The overall ASP of the smartwatch category will drop from $223.25 in 2017 to $214.99 in 2021 as higher volumes lead to slight reductions in manufacturing and component costs, but strong brands such as Apple and Fossil will keep pricing consistent with price bands of traditional watches," she added.

The announcement of a new Apple Watch expected in September may enable direct cellular connectivity for interacting with Siri, texting and transferring sensor data when the phone or WiFi is not present.

Two sub-categories that Gartner expects to perform well are kids' smartwatches and traditional watch brands, which will emerge as significant segments for smartwatches. Gartner expects kids' smartwatches to represent 30% of total smartwatch unit shipments in 2021. These devices are targeted at children in the two to 13 year-old range, before parents provide them with a smartphone.

The other sub-category, which will account for 25% of smartwatch units by 2021, is fashion and traditional watch brands. "Luxury and fashion watch brands will offer smartwatches in an attempt to attract younger customers," said McIntyre. A final sub-category is represented by the startup and while-label brands (e.g., Archos, Cogito, Compal, Martian, Omate or Quanta), which will account for 5% of smartwatch unit sales in 2021.

In the broad wearable market, Gartner forecasts that 310.4 million of wearable devices will be sold worldwide in 2017, an increase of 16.7% from 2016. Sales of wearable devices will generate revenue of $30.5bn in 2017, with $9.3bn coming from smartwatches.

Bluetooth devices will however continue to be the most sold wearable device.

In 2017, 150 million Bluetooth headsets will be sold, an increase of 16.7% from 2016, increasing to 206 million units in 2021. The growth in Bluetooth headsets is driven by the elimination of the headphone jack by major smartphone providers. "By 2021, we assume that almost all premium mobile phones will no longer have the 3.5 mm jack," added McIntyre.

Head-mounted displays (HMDs) account for only 7% of all wearable devices shipped in 2017, and will not reach mainstream adoption with consumers or industrial customers through 2021. "Current low adoption by mainstream consumers shows that the market is still in its infancy, not that it lacks longer-term potential," said McIntyre.

Near-term opportunities for virtual reality HMDs among consumers are with video game players. Workers will also use them for tasks such as equipment repair, inspections and maintenance, but also in warehouses and manufacturing, training, design, customer interactions and more. Theme parks, theatres, museums and sports venues will purchase HMDs to enhance the customers’ experience in interactive attractions or movies, and add information and supplemental images at sporting events.