Wearable tech shipments set for 2015 dip in wake of smartwatch boom

Gartner is predicting turbulent times ahead for the wearable fitness tech market, with shipments expected to dip next year before rebounding in 2016.

The market watcher says wearable electronic devices for fitness shipments (which include smartbands, sports watches, fitness monitors and heart rate trackers) will reach 68.1 million units in 2015, despite hitting 70 million units in 2014.

This predicted downturn in shipments is being blamed on the overlap in functionality between smart wristbands, smartwatches and other wearable fitness monitors.

Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, explained: "The smartwatches differ from smart wristbands in that smartwatches need to display the time and have a user interface orientated around communication.

"However, some smart wristbands have the ability to display and send text messages. The overlap in functionality between smart wristbands and smart watches is expected to continue."

As a result, Gartner claims 50 per cent of people are likely to opt for a smartwatch over a wearable electronic fitness tracker in 2015, which will have a negative impact on shipments.

Looking ahead, however, the analyst house says it expects shipments of the devices to return to form in 2016 as the variety of available designs widens.

It also predicts that from 2018 onwards a quarter of smart fitness devices will be sold via non-retail channels, including by gyms, healthcare providers, insurance firms, weight loss clinics and employers.

This will be fuelled in part, says Gartner, by fitness monitors being integrated into employee badges and ID bracelets.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.