Fitness wearables appear healthy as sales double - one in seven now wear daily

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/Georgijevic)

Fitness wearables – like Fitbit and the Apple Watch – were among the "must have" items over this past holiday period, and I would bet you know at least one person that wears one regularly. In fact, new research by consumer analysts Mintel would back that claim up. 

Mintel's research suggests that sales of fitness bands and smartwatches more than doubled in Britain over the past 12 months, and one in seven people in the UK now wear a fitness wearable of some form during their daily life. 

Over three million wrist-worn wearable devices – including fitness bands and smartwatches – are estimated to have been sold in the UK in 2015, up 118 percent on the previous year. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of wrist-worn wearable devices sold last year were fitness bands, while 37 per cent were smartwatches.

It is fundamental that wearables do not overload users with information

Fitness bands, in general, have a longer battery life than smartwatches. Charging a watch every couple of days is still a strange concept to many general consumers – at least those I've spoken to. Fitness bands also remain cheaper than smartwatches, and offer a similar amount of functionality at the moment. 

Sara Ballaben, technology analyst at Mintel, said: "While fitness bands are, on average, less expensive than other wearables and have been on the market for relatively longer, higher adoption rates are also a reflection of the fact that wrist-worn devices offer a compelling practical benefit to active users. Fitness bands monitor and help to improve their performance while eliminating the need to carry around bulkier devices while training." 

With the increasing capabilities of smartwatches – particularly as more "smart devices" come online as part of the Internet of Things – consumer appetite is expected to grow. Another driver for smartwatch growth is the increasing popularity of "phablet" devices; with consumers wanting quick access from their wrist to information and functions without pulling out a large device each time. 

Ballaben continues: "While important product launches have and will certainly continue to accelerate consumer demand for smartwatches, the expected popularity of smartwatches in the short term is also the result of continued growth of the phablet market, which creates more compelling use cases for wrist-worn watches." 

Some fitness bands, like the Microsoft Band, are looking to combine smartwatch functionality with health monitoring. Other manufacturers such as Fitbit also offer this to some extent with devices like the Surge, but without apps or voice recognition it's often limited. Microsoft, on the other hand, are using their impressive Cortana virtual assistant to perform functions like set the navigation, start the heating, open the garage door, or set the alarm. 

"It is fundamental that wearables do not overload users with information and, instead, filter selectively what information is disseminated. This suggests that customisation should go beyond a device's design to allow users to personalise the use they make of their wearable, as well as the range and number of alerts they receive," Ballaben notes. 

One in 10 claim they plan to buy or upgrade to a new fitness band within the next 12 months, whilst another 8 percent say the same of smartwatches. It's clear that both fitness bands and smartwatches are still finding their feet, but it appears that bands currently have the edge over watches when it comes to winning (and tracking) consumers' hearts at the moment. 

Do you foresee the fitness wearable market continuing to grow? Let us know in the comments.

 

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