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Wearable Tech

Will 2017 be the year smartwatches finally take off?

A greater emphasis on fashion should help smartwatches and other wearables appeal to the mass market, boosting sales.


2017 could be the year wearables become hot.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Wearable tech may finally be coming into vogue as smartwatches and other wearable devices are expected to see big sales starting this year.

Sales in the market are expected to grow by 18.6 percent for the next five years, according to market research firm IDC. As tech companies partner with more fashion brands, smartwatches in particular will get a boost, the report said. This should help expand the market for wearables beyond gadget geeks to more mass market fashionistas.

"Tech companies will be forced to step up their game and offer a wider selection of sizes, materials, and designs in order to appeal to a broader audience," Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC said in a statement.

The news comes after a year of lackluster sales for wearables in 2016. Smartwatches, in particular, were a disappointment as consumers still weren't sure what to make of expensive gadgets like the Apple Watch.

"Watches struggled as mass market devices due to limited and unclear value proposition to a broad base of potential users," IDC research manager, Ramon Llamas said in a statement.

But that could all change in 2017 and beyond, as manufacturers look to serve specific niches, such as connected kids' watches, athletic watches, luxury and fashion watches. Some makers may make "lifestyle watches" that better address different needs, whether that's communication or health and fitness.

Beyond the world of smartwatches, IDC also predicts growth in earworn devices and smart clothing, particularly those focused on fitness and monitoring. But like smartwatches, these products will be tailored for a specific consumer, said Llamas.

"In both cases, the wearable is not taking a one-size fits all approach, and instead concentrates on specific solutions for specific use cases," he said.