Pandemic prompts health boom for wearables

A woman sleeping on a white bed and wearing a smartwatch
The pandemic forced greater interest in health and fitness, boosting the overall wearables market in 4Q and all of 2020. (Olena Hromova/Shutterstock)

The pandemic has been good for wearables as consumers have put health and fitness at a premium.

IDC said recently that shipments reached 153 million in the fourth quarter, a year-over-year increase of 27%.  For all of 2020, shipments reached nearly 445 million wearables, an increase of 28% over 2019.

“In-home fitness programs are quickly becoming a crucial component of wearables offerings for many companies,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC.  Also, health sensors to discover skin temperature, ECG and heart rate help users and health professionals better track diseases.

The global semiconductor shortage did hurt the market for wristbands, which declined nearly 18% during the quarter and made up 11% of all wearable devices shipped. Hearables were the largest category with 64%, while watches had a 24% share.

Amazon gained a foothold with its Echo Buds and Frames while Apple introduced AirPods Max.  Automatic noise cancelling in hearables and voice assistance emerged.

Apple led the market again in the fourth quarter with 36% share as its Watch shipments rose 45% with three models at different price points.

In second place, Xiaomi saw fourth quarter growth improve by 5% for all categories although its Mi Band line declined by 18% with a shortage of chips.  Hearables grew 55%.

Samsung was in third with 8.8 million hearables shipped in the quarter. Overall volume for low-cost wristbands was relatively low at 1.3 and watch shipments declined to 2.9 million. Huawei finished fourth and BoAT finished fifth.

Spending on wearables for workplace use is expected to grow 41% a year to more than $50 billion in 2022, according to a projection by Deloitte. Many are not connected to the public internet and are used to enforce social distancing and in management of contact tracing as part of the pandemic response.

wearables 4Q 2020 chart

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