Ownership of Activity Trackers, Smartwatches Expected to Jump At Least 4 Percent This Holiday Season

Port Washington, NY, October 28, 2015 – As consumers become more aware of the benefits and capabilities of activity trackers and smartwatches, combined with the market entrance of key players such as Apple in the smartwatch space, The NPD Group forecasts at least a 4 percent increase in ownership of wearable devices such as activity trackers and smartwatches during the Q4 2015 holiday season in the U.S. market. In the latest Consumers and Wearables report, The NPD Group tracked consumers’ intention to purchase as well as the key factors influencing their decisions on brand and functionality.

"The wearables industry has come to a crossroads in the past six months, as the quality, depth and price points of activity trackers and smartwatches have expanded at a rapid rate," said Weston Henderek, Director, Wearables, Connected Intelligence, The NPD Group. "The two sectors are much more segmented now, with the activity tracker category in particular having a wide variety of price ranges, depending on features, quality, and design."

In November 2013, awareness of activity trackers was just over 30 percent of the U.S. market, with younger consumers being the most knowledgeable. Almost two years later, the situation has changed significantly, with close to 82 percent of the U.S. base claiming awareness of activity tracking devices.

Brand preference in the activity tracker space continues to be led by Fitbit, and by a large margin. In fact, Fitbit ownership has increased 13 percentage points since February 2015, and it remains the only activity tracker brand that consumers request by name on a regular basis, rather than just by comparing features or style.

Watch out, World: The Apple Watch is Transforming the Smartwatch Sector

Whereas the price tags and continued uncertainty on the part of consumers about the functionality of smartwatches has—in the past—stalled any significant growth in the category, the release of the Apple Watch in April has made major ripples within the smartwatch sector.

“Smartwatch adoption has started to increase significantly following the launch of the Apple Watch, which is much more of a mainstream product than other generation one smartwatches,” Henderek added. “However, even the Apple Watch is not expected to reach its full potential until the launch of a second-generation version—presumably with integrated cellular connectivity. In fact, independent cellular connectivity is one of the key differentiators [compared to activity trackers] that will accelerate smartwatch growth even further in the coming year.”

Activity Trackers/Digital Fitness Devices: The Must-Have Item this Holiday Season

According to NPD’s U.S. Technology and Sports Retail Tracking Service data, retail sales of activity trackers/digital fitness devices (excluding smartwatch sales) increased 120 percent over the first eight months of the year (Jan.’15 – Aug.’15), from $343.5 million to $754.8 million.

“That level of growth is expected to extend through the end of the year, making activity trackers some of the hottest tech gifts this holiday. Awareness of these products has grown tremendously over the past year, and there are a diverse number of products on the market offering a variety of features and price points,” said Ben Arnold, Executive Director, Industry Analyst, Consumer Electronics, The NPD Group. “Manufacturers continue to partner with designers to increase the appeal of the products, and there is a product for every type of consumer—from the most active athlete to the mom who just wants to remember when to pick up her kids from soccer practice—on the market.”

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David Riley

The NPD Group, Inc.
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