The Smart Watch Market is Headed for a Boom

by Kristen Hanich | Sep. 14, 2017

Smart watch adoption is picking up in the United States. According to Parks Associates' most recent survey data, as of 2017 14% of U.S. broadband households own at least one smart watch. Consumer-reported purchase intention for smart watches has also more than doubled year-over-year, ahead of the holiday shopping season.

2017 is an important year for the U.S. smart watch market. Traditional fitness wearable brands Fitbit and Garmin have announced their first "true" smart watch models, marking their entry into a market where high-quality fitness/health tracking is increasingly seen as a necessary component of the smart watch experience. Apple recently announced its LTE-supported Watch Series 3, which will allow users to make and receive calls and perform other Internet-based tasks over a standalone cellular connection. Samsung likewise unveiled its new Gear Sport smart watch, buckling down on fitness and wellness features in both its watch hardware and its software via the Samsung Health app.

Fitbit and Garmin are well-positioned for a pivot into the smart watch market. Although they only recently announced smart watch models that meet the industry definition, their transitional devices—the Fitbit Blaze and the Garmin Vivoactive HR - are widely considered to already be smart watches among consumers. When considering the Blaze and Vivoactive HR as smart watch models, both Fitbit and Garmin rise to the list of the top four smart watch companies in the U.S., alongside Apple and Samsung. According to Parks Associates' consumer survey data, these four companies—Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin—control 80% of the smart watch market among U.S. broadband households.

The growing popularity of fitness-focused smart watches will likely kill the high- and mid-end fitness tracker market. Fewer smart watch users abandon their devices than do users of fitness trackers, and a higher percentage of adopters use their smart watches daily. Consumers grow tired of their fitness trackers, or just plain forget to use them—which is easy to do, with devices that aren't designed to be worn every day and even to the workplace. Smart watches that feature stylish designs, full-featured fitness tracking, payment apps, and LTE connectivity will increasingly be the standard going forward. This is good news for the smartphone makers—such as Apple and Samsung—looking for the next big thing.

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