A subset of the mind-bogglingly massive Internet of Things trend, the market for wearable devices offers interested investors no shortage of interesting opportunities. It's important to note that the term "wearable" is in many ways its own umbrella term for a diverse set of devices that can range from embedded sensors to virtual-reality headsets. However, for simplicity's sake, we'll keep things a bit more focused while we discuss the three best stocks for investing in wearables today.
Under Armour (NYSE:UAA)
This first name might come as a bit of a surprise, but founder and CEO Kevin Plank has built Under Armour into one of the leading athletic brands in the world, and the company's recent interest in embedding sensors into its high-performance gear shows its innovative spirit is alive as ever.
Under Armour's E39 performance monitor sits on the leading edge of mainstream embedded sensors. Unlike other fitness trackers that often monitor only single metrics, such as heart rate or calories burned, Under Armour's E39 can track a host of metrics, including heart rate, calories, acceleration, and G-force that all sync seamlessly with Under Armour's own dedicated E39 app. Whereas other fitness brands such as Nike are de-emphasizing embedded and wearable tech, Under Armour appears intent on continuing to push the envelope in this nascent, but exciting, space.
This one should be a bit more obvious, but it's impossible to talk about wearables and not mention tech giant Apple's Watch. With the Watch about to hit the market, tech analysts widely expect it to quickly emerge as the dominant device among smartwatches. Let's look at a few numbers to help illustrate my point.
According to one industry analyst, the global smartwatch market shipped a total of 6.8 million devices in 2014 at an average selling price of only $189 per unit. This year, most Wall Street sell-side analysts believe Apple could easily sell closer to 15 million Watches at an average selling price likely north of $500. One recent set of estimates I saw argued that the Apple Watch will expand into a $20 billion-plus business by 2017, a number that indeed seems plausible given Apple's legions of fans and sizable installed device base. However, many believe that like the smartwatch market in general, Apple will need to dramatically improve future versions of its Watch in order to assure its mass market appeal. Either way, Apple is the odds-on favorite to dominate the smartwatch market in the years to come, making it one of the best ways to invest in the growth of wearable tech today.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL)
I badly wanted to include a more diverse name like Garmin, Nike, or a soon-to-be-public company such as FitBit, but I'd sacrifice my genuine opinion for diversity's sake. Like Apple, it doesn't take an industry veteran to understand Google is ideally positioned to capitalize of the coming wearable boom. Like smartphones and tablets before it, Google's Android Wear is the odds-on favorite to become the software standard to power a huge portion of the wearables market in the coming years for a few reasons.
For more software-driven devices such as smartwatches, Google's already entrenched presence among mobile application developers gives Android Wear a built-in developer base. Both Samsung and Microsoft will probably challenge Android Wear, but they will need to persuade developers of their respective platforms' viability in short order. As we've seen with the lack of success with Samsung's Tizen and Microsoft's Windows Mobile, that's no small obstacle for either tech giant. And for less advanced wearables such as simple fitness trackers, they will typically need to interface with a smartphone to transmit the information they collect, which means such devices will still have dedicated apps that pass through either Apple's or Google's respective App stores. Love or hate them, Apple and Google are ideally positioned to dominate the wearables market, just as they do mobile today.
Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Under Armour. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Under Armour. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.