Tech Trends

Wearables Bulk Up with Triple-Digit Gains

Wearables have seen their eighth consecutive quarter of growth, with first quarter shipments of 11.4 million, according to IT analyst firm International Data Corp. (IDC). The company's recent report, Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, said that was a 200 percent increase over the same quarter in 2014, when 3.8 million wearables were shipped.

At the same time prices are coming down. "As with any young market, price erosion has been quite drastic," said Jitesh Ubrani, IDC senior research analyst. "We now see over 40 percent of the devices priced under $100, and that's one reason why the top five vendors have been able to grow their dominance from two thirds of the market in the first quarter of last year to three quarters this quarter."

Note that these volumes don't include the Apple Watch, which was released during the second quarter of the year. The pricing for those wearables from Apple range from $349 for a sports watch to $12,000 for a gold-encased "Watch Edition" that arrives in a leather box with a built-in charger.

"What remains to be seen is how Apple's arrival will change the landscape," said IDC Research Manager Ramon Llamas. "The Apple Watch will likely become the device that other wearables will be measured against, fairly or not. This will force the competition to up their game in order to stay on the leading edge of the market."

Wearables are expected to become "increasingly relevant" in education, according to the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition, released in February by the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative. The authors of that report stated that experimentation is expected to be high in higher education driven by the use of wearables by college-aged students. At that time, the report said, 21 percent of U.S. adult students used wearables, and 71 percent of students between the ages of 16 to 24 wanted to use wearables.

In K-12, two universities are working on developing curriculum that would help students in grades 4-6 investigate wearable technology to inspire them to learn more about engineering.

More broadly, Fitbit led the world in wearables shipments, driven by the release of three new devices during the first quarter: the Charge, Charge HR and the Surge. The company shipped 3.9 million devices during the first quarter, grabbing 34 percent of the total market, a 129 percent increase over the same period last year.

No. 2 Xiaomi shipped 2.8 million units in the first quarter, primarily in its home country of China. However, the company recently opened stores in four global locations and has begun selling its low-cost devices online. The Mi Band, which features an activity and sleep tracker and 30-day battery but no display (it works with an iOS or Android smartphone), is available for $14.99.

In third place, Garmin shipped 700,000 devices, many of which are GPS-enabled to track location and distance.

Coming in fourth, Samsung shipped 600,000 units, primarily based on worldwide demand for its Gear smartwatches. "What has limited Samsung, however," IDC reported, "is the ability for Gear devices to connect only with select high-end Samsung smartphones."

Jawbone came in at No. 5, beating Pebble and Sony, with shipments of 500,000 devices, driven by release of its UP MOVE and continued strong demand for its UP24, both of which lack displays. The company recently released the UP3 wearable.

The Wearable Device Tracker is available to IDC customers only.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.