Wearable bands — both basic ones and smart ones — are seeing dramatic sales growth, according to a new report from industry researcher Canalys.
Canalys found that 1.5 million smart bands shipped in the second half of 2013, just setting the table for the boom to come – a projected 17 million this year. Fitbit is currently the leading vendor in basic bands, releasing Flex and Forcebands last year to make sure users are burning enough calories and getting enough quality sleep. Its very busy owners are probably exceeding the first goal and falling short of the second, given that the colorful wristlets are now accounting for half of the basic band market.
Among the smarter bands, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch accounts for the majority of shipments, according to Canalys. The research firm noted that basic bands are shipping in larger numbers, but sales of smarter bands are growing faster – and, eventually, the two categories will merge.
Canalys’ Daniel Matte says this quick uptake of fitness bands shows that the wearables market “is really about the consumerization of health.” That view – that wearables won’t be so much about checking your calendar and other apps without pulling out a device but will instead focus on personal wellbeing, literally monitored within an inch of your life – meshes with other indications that Apple’s awaited entry into this market will be differentiated, in large part, by new levels of health and fitness tracking.
But health tracking does not need to be limited to wrist bands/watches. Munich-based researchers, for instance, have just announced Bluetooth in-ear headphones called Dash that have built-in body sensors. Oh yes, and they come with an ear bone transduction microphone and 4GB of storage for songs.
Late last month, U.S.-based researchers unveiled silver nanowires that can create wearable sensors stretched to 150 percent of their original size while still functioning. A M.I.T. Media Lab-created sensory book allows readers to feel the emotions of a story’s characters. Conceivably, it could also be a health book that monitored all those signals in your hands.
In other words, expect gloves, rings, glasses, and shoes — maybe even some creams you can apply — that will give you new levels of intelligent readouts about how out of shape you are. If the wearable market is really about body tracking, as Canalys says, the focus on wristwatches and bands is as shortsighted as when we thought phones lived on night-tables and computers belonged on desks.