Big Growth and Even Bigger Challenges Will Impact the Wearables Market Through 2019

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Wearable tech has had a few false starts. On one hand, the technology is very influential in both consumer and industrial segments. On the other, items like the Google Glass and even the Apple Watch (despite the company selling somewhere in the ballpark of 4.1 million units by June of this year) have been released, to much fanfare, only to fail to meet soaring expectations.

Aesthetic and price, respectively, are two key issues that have plagued both Google and Apple when it comes to their wearables. Most consumers already have a phone or tablet (or both), and don’t entirely know how a smartwatch or head mounted display might fit into their gadget arsenal.

Novelty value is definitely a factor in convincing a consumer to pick up a wearable, but with price tags of well over $500 in many cases, it’s a tough sell.

But despite the tepid reception among the general public, the numbers are still impressive. The wearable electronics market is expected see a total of 281.1 million units shipped by 2019, and post a CAGR of 79.99% from 2014-2019. However, the bulk of this growth actually took place from 2014-2015, when most of these technologies were relatively new.

Wearable tech

Unsurprisingly, smart bands like the Fitbit and other fitness trackers, and smartwatches (including but not limited to the Apple Watch) dominate the market. There are tons of makes and models available at all prices, making them more accessible to consumers. These devices can provide health and fitness insights, and can be worn easily and subtly, which makes it easy for consumers to justify taking the wearable plunge.

But despite the relative popularity of this breed of wearable, there’s still a number of big challenges that manufacturers will have to cope with before wearable electronics can really sink their claws into the global marketplace.

Four key challenges for wearables to overcome

Unattractive designs

We mentioned earlier that aesthetic issues are a big problem for wearables.

Most wearable electronics manufacturers are focused on technology rather than design. For instance, most smartwatches run on processors and components that are designed for smartphones, which make them bulkier than a normal watch. However, vendors are starting to address this, and release products in a wider variety of shapes, materials and styles.

Security and privacy issues

A story broke earlier this summer about a self-proclaimed pickup artists who was trying to get women’s phone numbers, all while recording the whole thing with a camera in his glasses.

This is just one incident, but there have been others that have spurred some concern about privacy and security when it comes to smart glasses. At the moment there are no regulations governing their use, but Technavio expects discussion surrounding the proper use of this technology during the forecast period.

Connectivity issues

Wearables are only as good as their internet connection and mobile network operators need to be able to offer state of the art infrastructure in order to cater to constantly connected mobile devices.

High power consumption

The high power consumption of wearable electronics is one of the major challenges for vendors in the market. Smartwatches have batteries that last up to 15 hours, but in cases of extensive use, the battery lasts for less than eight hours. Given that these devices are meant to be used pretty constantly, vendors need to step-up their battery game and develop longer lasting power sources.