Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

IDC: Wearables Volumes to Approach 200 Million This Year

By Evan Niu, CFA – Updated Apr 14, 2019 at 9:25AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Smartwatches will lead the way, followed by earwear and wristbands.

Market researcher IDC recently tweaked its definition of wearable devices, which now includes wireless headphones that can activate smart assistants. Importantly, the change allows IDC to include one particularly popular product: Apple's (AAPL 0.66%) AirPods. After taking the adjustment into account, the researcher now estimates that worldwide wearable device shipments in 2019 will jump 15% to 198.5 million. Smartwatches, earwear, and wristbands are expected to drive unit volumes this year.

Here's what the estimates mean for companies competing in the wearables market.

People playing basketball while wearing Apple Watch

Image source: Apple.

Approaching 200 million

IDC breaks down its latest forecast by category instead of by vendor. Companies are now exploring connected clothing, but that category is expected to pale in comparison to smartwatches, earwear, and wristbands.

Product Category

2019 Estimated Shipments

2019 Estimated Market Share


90.6 million



54.4 million



49 million



3 million



1.7 million



198.5 million


Data source: IDC.

Smartwatches representing the bulk of wearables volume bodes well for Apple and Fitbit (FIT), currently the two leaders in the smartwatch space. Fitbit recently introduced an even more affordable version of its popular Versa smartwatch called the Versa Lite, which should help it cement its place as No. 2 behind Apple. Competition could soon start to chip away at Apple's position, though, with watchOS only expected to represent 28% of the smartwatch market by 2023, according to IDC's forecast.

In terms of the next-biggest category, earwear volumes could hit nearly 55 million this year as smart earbuds continue to grow in popularity. Samsung just released its Galaxy Buds, which support both Google Assistant and its own Bixby, to compete with AirPods. Adding biometric sensors -- which Apple is potentially doing with AirPods 2 based on patent filings -- will also help drive demand going forward, IDC believes. Fitbit's Flyer wireless headphones don't appear to qualify as wearables based on IDC's definition, since they lack any type of biometric sensors and don't provide access to virtual assistants.

Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Apple.

Once upon a time, wristbands like basic fitness trackers represented the bulk of the wearables market, but consumers have been shifting toward more full-featured devices in recent years. The category is still popular in certain regions but isn't expected to grow much in the years ahead. IDC expects China's Xiaomi and Huawei to continue owning this segment of the market, although basic trackers still represented over half of Fitbit's revenue in 2018.

Connected clothing is still a nascent category, mostly comprised of things like step-counting shoes. IDC notes that connected clothing is starting to take off in China, but Nike and Under Armour are starting to ramp up their efforts. For example, Nike introduced connected jerseys for professional sports teams in 2017 and recently launched self-lacing shoes similar to the ones imagined in Back to the Future II. Under Armour has also been developing connected clothing for a few years now.

Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Fitbit, UAA, and UA. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends NKE. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$151.76 (0.66%) $0.99
Fitbit, Inc. Stock Quote
Fitbit, Inc.

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 09/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.