Even though wearable technology is still in its infancy, many people have already formed strong opinions about it. Some believe that wearables will be just as important as mobile devices, while others think the devices are a solution waiting for a problem. But wearable technology is growing, no matter what side of the fence you end up on, and it'll likely become a part of your life very soon.
Check out these nine facts about wearable tech:
- In 2015, 80 million wearables were shipped worldwide, and it's only going up from there. The number of wearable shipments will skyrocket to more than 214 million by 2019, according to IDC.
- Basic wearables (those that can't run third-party apps) are currently more popular than smart wearables (like smartwatches that can run apps from an app store). Fitbit (NYSE:FIT) currently holds 22% of the overall wearable market share by shipments, while Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has over 18%. But basic wearables will start losing market share to smart wearables over the next few years.
- Just 16% of the U.S. adult population used some sort of wearable technology in 2015, but that seems bound to change soon. By 2019, more than 33% are expected to be using the tech.
- Smartwatches may only be a smartphone companion device right now, but that hasn't kept them from piquing consumer interest. About 40% of U.S. consumers say that they are interested in buying one.
- There's lots of money to be made from wearables. The wearable tech market was worth about $7 billion last year, and that number will more than quadruple to $31 billion by 2020.
- Smart clothing already exists, and it's going to become more mainstream. Ralph Lauren already has a PoloTech shirt that monitors heart rates more accurately than a wrist-worn device and can track the intensity of a person's workout. And smart clothing isn't just for athletes. About 14% of consumers are expected to purchase some sort of smart clothing by 2018.
- While Samsung's smartphones have been a dominant force in mobile, the same isn't true for its wearable technology. In Q3 2015, Samsung didn't even make it to the top five wearable tech vendor list (by shipments). Meanwhile, Fitbit, Apple, Xiaomi, Garmin and the China-based BBK led.
- Health wearable technology is a growing subset of wearable tech and it's about to take off. In 2013, only 13 million heath wearable devices were shipped, but that number skyrocketed to 34 million last year.
- The Apple Watch is a rising star in the wearable tech world and shipped nearly 7 million units in the two quarters after it went on sale -- that's more than all of its competitors combined over the past five quarters. Apple holds about 74% of the global smartwatch market right now, and is expected to hold the lead until at least 2020.
Tech companies and consumers are still trying to figure out the best way to use these new technologies, but it's clear that wearable tech is here to stay. Investors should keep an eye on this growing market, as well as which companies could benefit the most.