Wearable tech will break the consumer market in 2014 after the segment was buoyed in 2013 by fitness-tracking bands, one research firm has predicted, though smartwatches are expected to cannibalize more basic models from Fitbit and Jawbone. The "smart band" segment made up of smartwatches from manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, and Pebble will reach around 8m shipments in 2014, Canalys suggests, estimating that figure will rise to more than 23m units by 2015, and in excess of 45m units by 2017.
According to the company's stats, around 1.6m smartwatch-style devices were shipped in the second half of 2013, with Samsung holding 54-percent of the market. Sony came in second, Canalys says, with 19-percent, while Pebble had 16-percent.
Fitness wearables, like Nike's Fuelband, Jawbone's UP, and Fitbit's Flex, dominated however, though sales growth is behind that of smartwatches. In that segment, Fitbit had 58-percent market share in 2H 2013, with Jawbone holding 21-percent and Nike having 14-percent.
What will shake all that up, the researchers suggest, is when smartwatches start to replicate the basic fitness tracking functionality that currently is being done by standalone models. Over 17m wearables are forecast to ship this year, and gradually skew toward the generally more expensive smart models in the next 18- to 24-months as they add value with features the fitness-centric models don't offer.
The OS expected to power all this wearable innovation is Android, with Canalys suggesting that Google's platform will be "critical" though pointing out that it still requires "significant changes" before it's truly suitable. That's something Google has already shown willingness to do, reskinning Android for head-worn wearable tech on Glass; several leaks have suggested Google has its own internal smartwatch project running.
Samsung is believed to be readying a second-generation version of its Galaxy Gear smartwatch to launch alongside the Galaxy S5 later this month, while of course Apple has long been connected with chatter of an "iWatch" that will work with its own iOS platform.