Fitness trackers have been in use for several years, and are still the most widely used wearable devices. Although they have an uncertain future, with the challenge from multi-functional smart watches, trackers can carve out their own niche by appealing to different markets and consumer needs.
According to the latest market study by Juniper Research, fitness wearables in-use will almost treble by 2018, compared to an estimated 19 million in-use devices during 2014.
Juniper believes that fitness will remain the dominant wearables segment until that time, driven by intuitive software applications (apps) and lower retail prices. However, the broader appeal of smart watches will mean that they will be used more frequently in later years.
Their study findings observed that the diversity of fitness wearables will likely bring about two classes of fitness device.
Basic trackers, such as the Xiaomi MiBand will sell on their value, while more complex devices, such as the Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band and Samsung Gear Fit, will offer additional features beyond fitness -- examples of these apps are notifications and music control.
More capable wearable devices will compete with smart watches -- especially those that offer similar notification functions, such as the MetaWatch M1 and Martian Notifier.
However, more aesthetically-minded consumers will still choose smart watches, as fitness-focused devices will prioritize function over form. That said, software apps will become a defining part of the market as it evolves.
How Wearables Enable Self-Help Healthcare
Moreover, Juniper anticipates that sales of healthcare-focused wearable devices will increase, from wearable ECGs (electrocardiograms) to glucose monitors and insulin pumps.
While they are currently used in areas where self-medication is the norm, capabilities will expand to allow monitoring by healthcare professionals in other areas. However, this will only happen once questions around privacy regulation are answered.
Other key findings from the study include:
- Fitbit will remain the leading vendor for fitness tracking, although their decision not to integrate with Apple Health may harm their market share in the short term.
- With engagement a key pain point for fitness wearables, start-up GOQii is pioneering a new service-based business model, offering contact with fitness coaches alongside their device.