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User Experience and New Apps will Expand Wearables

A growing list of vendors, a proliferation of devices, superior user experiences, affordable price points, and steady adoption with more use-cases will fuel growth in the worldwide market for wearable devices.

According to the latest global market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), wearable device shipments will reach 76.1 million units in 2015 -- that's up 163.6 percent from the 28.9 million units shipped in 2014.

By 2019, worldwide shipments will reach 173.4 million units, resulting in a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9 percent. Total shipments include both basic and smart wearables, which are two very different product categories.

"Smart wearables only account for about a third of the total market today while basic wearables, led by fitness trackers, account for the rest," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC.

Driven by advancements in user interface (UI) and product features, smart wearables are on track to surpass the lower priced, less functional basic wearable category in 2018.

IDC believes that smart wearables will quickly move from being a smartphone accessory, primarily focused on notifications, to a more advanced wearable computer that's capable of doing more processing on its own.

Driving the market and gaining attention is smart wristwear -- including watches and bands, which are capable of running third-party applications. This includes the Apple Watch, Motorola's Moto 360, Samsung's Gear S-series, and Pebble's Time.

"We are at a stage now where more vendors are getting into this segment, setting the stage for more selection and ultimately more volumes," said Ramon Llamas, research manager at IDC.

However, potential buyers that are uninspired by the use-cases for currently available products will be more interested once the second- and third-generation devices come to market with improved hardware capabilities and advanced software applications.

Looking ahead, customers will need to pay close attention to the different operating systems that power smart wristwear. Different smart wristwear operating systems are compatible with certain smartphone operating systems, and sometimes with specific models.

Beyond that, creative user experiences and available new software applications will vary. According to the IDC assessment, just as competition already exists for different smart wristwear designs, this competition will evolve into the operating system and associated software app landscape.

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