Savvy geek: Wearables blend fashion with function

Article By : Dylan McGrath

A number of smartwatches hitting the market in 2017 will look much less like high tech gizmos and more like their conventional counterparts, according to analysts.

Contrary to reports, the market for wearable electronics is far from dead.

Unit shipments of wearable electronics posted a 17% year-over-year increase in the fourth quarter, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). At least one IDC analyst believes wearables are poised for big things in 2017 and beyond.

The wearables market was largely expected to take off after the introduction of the Apple Watch in 2015. But that hasn't exactly happened… yet. Other than successful fitness trackers like Fitbit and a smattering of smartwatches, wearables have not exactly become a fashion statement.

The market research firm Strategy Analytics reported last month that the smartwatch market returned to modest growth in the fourth quarter of 2016 after two consecutive quarters of declines. But the growth was only 1% compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, and the category is dominated by one product: (you guessed it) the Apple Watch, which holds 63% of the market.

Strategy Analytics smartwatch (cr)
*Figure 1: Global smartwatch market saw a modest growth in Q4 2106. (Source: Strategy Analytics)*

Apple CEO Tim Cook raved about the Apple Watch during the company's quarterly earnings call in January, saying the calendar fourth quarter was the best ever for Apple Watch (Apple doesn't provide a detailed breakdown of Apple Watch sales as it does for iPads and iPhones, but according to IDC, both the Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watch proved to be a magnificent success for the electronics giant).

Still, Apple has always been something of an outlier and the rest of the market hasn't really been there to date.

Apple Watch (cr)
*Figure 2: The Apple Watch.*

For example, Pebble, which captured hearts, minds and dollars a few years ago with a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to fund early smartwatches, quietly sold itself to Fitbit last year, reportedly for peanuts.

More bad news for smartwatches surfaced this week. Swarovski AG, an Austrian jewellery company that announced with much fanfare at CES that it would partner with Google and Qualcomm to bring to market a smartwatch for women based on version 2.0 of the Android Wear version of Google's Android for wearables, has now reportedly decided to postpone the products rollout indefinitely.

Next: Wearables market 'shifts' into high gear »

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