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The volume and value of wearable device shipments in the UK will undergo massive growth over the next four years, as advances in design and increasing affordability make wearables more attractive to British consumers.
In a market forecast covering the next few years through to 2020, analysts at CCS Insight predicted that five million wearables will be sold in the UK in 2016.
By the end of the year, the research firm said, there will be 10 million wearables in general use, and these numbers will more than treble by 2020 to 33 million units.
“Wearables have become devices that ordinary people want to wear,” said CCS wearables analyst George Jijiashvili.
“Consumers in the UK have adopted wearable technology enthusiastically, particularly fitness trackers, which are becoming an increasingly commonplace accessory on people’s wrists.”
Fitness trackers are seeing the largest sales volumes by a country mile, said CCS Insight, with 1.6 million units set to be shipped in 2016 alone.
However, it will be smartphone companion devices that will ultimately make up the largest category by value, accounting for 34% of the value of the market by 2020, or approximately £300m.
Shipments will grow from 1.5 million in 2016 to 3.6 million in 2020. This category is noteworthy, said CCS, because it includes the Apple Watch.
Augmented and virtual reality
The report examined augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) devices – which proved a crowd-pleaser at the 2016 Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona – and wearable cameras, such as the GoPro.
Jijiashvili described VR as one of the hottest areas to emerge in 2016. He anticipates that a “deluge” of 360-degree video content would soon become widely available on Facebook and YouTube.
“The arrival of several 360-degree cameras during 2016 will further fuel the explosion of what we’re calling ‘surroundies’,” he said.
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CCS predicted that around 800,000 VR headset devices would be sold in 2016, with most of them smartphone-based devices that include a slot to insert a phone – such as the Samsung Gear, which its maker bundled with new Galaxy S7 devices on launch.
Devices such as the GoPro, meanwhile, will see more modest growth. Such devices tend to be collectively-owned by households, rather than individuals, said Jijiashvili, which made their market rather limited.
Equally, they also face stiffening competition from smartphone suppliers, which are steadily incorporating higher quality camera units in their devices.
Nevertheless, said CCS, connected cameras will be attractive sales offerings for mobile networks in the UK, as they try to push more product on consumers in the face of slowing smartphone sales.
The biggest challenge for wearable suppliers from here on out, added Jijiashvili, will be in making sure that people who buy one keep on using it, rather than abandoning it after a few months, as is often the case today.