With the introduction of new devices, new features, and updates to hardware and operating systems alike, 2017 has brought a number of changes to the smartwatch market. As of June 2017, nearly nine percent of U.S. consumers aged 18+ owned a smartwatch, up almost 1.5 percentage points from the six months prior.
And that growth rate is expected to skyrocket in the coming months—according to latest WEAR Report Industry Overview and Forecast from NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence, nearly 60-percent ownership growth is expected from Q2 2017 through Q4 2018, driven in large part by anticipated new product introductions from market leaders. This forecasted growth will result in nearly 15 percent of U.S. consumers aged 18+ owning a smartwatch by 2019.
“Rumors of the smartwatch’s demise have been greatly exaggerated—we expect to see stronger growth in the next 18 months, compared to 2016,” said Weston Henderek, director at Connected Intelligence, in a news release. “Many of the early growth projections for the smartwatch were, simply put, unrealistic. But in reality, a nine-percent ownership level is a pretty healthy start for the market after just a couple of years. We expect the next round of product upgrades will lead to more first-time smartwatch purchases, as well as upgrades for those with existing devices.”
What will catapult growth?
Increasing features and capabilities are key differentiators for smartwatches, which will further contribute to their growth over the forecast period. While use cases such as receiving notifications/texts, activity tracking, and news updates are still the most highly reported among smartwatch owners; use cases such as controlling music, using as a device to control pictures and video, and home automation are growing. In fact, 15 to 21 percent of smartwatch owners are already utilizing their devices for those types of activities daily.
Who will be buying?
Currently, smartwatch ownership is controlled by the millennial generation, which has 13 percent ownership penetration, compared to just less than nine percent for the overall market. However, as use cases broaden, shifts in smartwatch ownership will follow. In fact, the male/female split in the category is now the lowest it has ever been at 60 percent male—indicating a more mainstream audience. Additionally, despite higher pricing than activity trackers, smartwatch ownership is highest among the lowest income category (less than $45,000 per year), with 34 percent of smartwatch ownership penetration.
“While strong ownership in the lowest income category may seem counter intuitive, it is likely driven by a large number of buyers in the service industry who need a device to check incoming notifications when they can’t reach for their phone,” said Henderek. “Overall, increased features and functionality was the number one reason respondents chose a smartwatch over an activity tracker. Some of what we are seeing demonstrates a natural evolution of the device as a home control hub on the wrist, for one, and continued evolution of product capabilities will be key to winning over consumers.”
The results of the NPD Group Connected Intelligence Wearables Survey are based on consumer panel research that reached 5,000+ U.S. consumers, aged 18+ from diverse regions and demographical backgrounds. They reported on awareness, ownership, and intent to own various wearable devices. Additionally, consumers with awareness were asked follow up details including the features and functions that they expect to see in these devices. This survey was completed in June, 2017.