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Smartwatches vs activity trackers - Wearable fitness tech gets serious

Simon Jary | Feb. 17, 2014
Consumerisation of health drives fitness trackers faster than gimmicky smartwatches.

Galaxy Gear Vs Fitbit Force smartwatch activity tracker

Despite the rumours and hype surrounding an Apple iWatch and Samsung's Galaxy Gear the wearable tech market looks set to be dominated by activity trackers from the likes of Fitbit, Nike Fuelband and Jawbone.

As the potential for smart wearable devices continues to draw new entrants into the market, it is the sports and healthcare functionality that continues to dominate shipments and drives future wearable device adoption. Now read Best Activity Trackers 2014.

Major consumer device players including Google, Samsung, and Sony have all launched wearable devices in the past year, with Apple widely expected to follow suit this year.

"The wearable band market is really about the consumerisation of health," said Canalys Analyst Daniel Matte.

"There will be exciting innovations that disrupt the medical industry this year, and with the increased awareness about personal wellbeing they will bring to users, having a computer on your wrist will become increasingly common."

"Android will be critical for developing the smart band app ecosystem, though significant changes will be required before it is suitable for wearable devices," said Matte.

"Canalys expects Android to enter the smart band market soon in a meaningful way. Battery life and quality of sensor data will be vital metrics of success for all smart bands."

The most popular device functionality is heart-rate monitoring with close to 12 million devices shipped in 2013, according to ABI Research. These are primarily single function devices that communicate with nearby hubs such as smartphones or activity sports watches.

Pedometers and activity trackers were the next two most popular devices, accounting for around 16 million devices combined in 2013.

Despite the interest and appeal for smart watches and glasses, vendors such as Garmin, Polar, Nike, FitBit and a host of others will continue to ensure that sports and activity sensing remains a key wearable device format well through 2019, says ABI. Over the next five years wearable devices will increasingly move into healthcare services as well.

Basic and smart wearable band shipments grew dramatically in the second half of 2013. Fitbit became the new leader of the wearable band market, following the launch of its affordable Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Force bands in May and October 2013 respectively. Which Fitbit is best for you?

According to analysts at Canalys Fitbit dominated the market for basic bands, with over 50 percent market share in the second half of the year. At the same time, Samsung accounted for the majority of smart band shipments according to Canalys market estimates.

 

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