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Apple to lead as smartwatches move deeper into health and fitness, IDC says

The firm predicts Apple will capture more than a quarter of the market share for watches in 2023.

Watches will dominate the wearables market, says IDC.
Angela Lang/CNET

Apple will lead the way to smartwatch growth in the next four years, according to a recent quarterly forecast by market research firm International Data Corporation. The finding about Apple is consistent with IDC's prediction earlier this March

When asked why Apple will remain the industry leader in the smartwatch sector, the firm attributes it to the increasing demand for the companies products.

"Apple's...nearest competitors follow by a long margin," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables team. "Android also plays a big role here, but it's mostly known as a Chinese wearables platform."

Shipments for the global wearables market will collectively increase from 222.9 million units in 2013 to 302.3 million units in 2023, IDC said, with watches holding the greatest market share: 43.5% of all wearable devices. That means watches will grow from 91.8 million units in 2019 to 131.6 million four years from now, the firm said. 

"Smartwatches, as always, will still tell you the time, but will move deeper into health and fitness and connect with multiple applications and systems," said Llamas in a press release. "Ear-worn devices ... will nudge into other areas like language translation, smart assistant deployment and coaching."

Other brands, running operating systems such as Android, WearOS, and Tizen, will push growth in the smartwatch market as well. 

The bulk of the wearables growth involves demand for ear-worn devices and smartwatches, which combined will make up 70% of all wearable shipments by 2023. For ear-worn devices, benefits such as dealing with hearing loss will entice consumers, IDC said, while smartwatches will appeal to buyers as health and fitness tools. Wristbands, on the other hand, will see fairly flat shipment growth as North American and Western European markets expect consumers to transition to smartwatches. 

The wearables growth data is an increase of about 25 million from IDC's report earlier this year that predicted the wearables market would grow to 279 million units in the next four years. 

The quarterly reports are intended for companies competing in the wearables ecosystem as well as component suppliers, distributors and marketers, the firm said in an email statement. The data fed into the reports include user sentiment, quarterly and annual volumes, vendor devices and strategies and attachment rates. 

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Originally published June 19, 10:54 a.m. PT

Update, 2:37 p.m.: Includes comments from Ramon T. Llamas, Research Director at IDC.