During the COVID-19 pandemic, wearables became a tool for tracking, monitoring, and combating the spread of the disease throughout the world. According to a recent study from global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, the number of wearables shipped worldwide in 2020 increased to 259.63 million, with sports, fitness, and wellness trackers accounting for 112.15 million and Smartwatches 74.30 million. Now, due to the increasing number of use cases and improved features, the upward trend is predicted to continue. In 2021, 304.69 million wearables shipped globally. In 2022, the wearable market is projected to reach 344.9 million of shipments worldwide, a growth increase of 13.2%.
“While the wearables sector has witnessed strong growth so, too, has mobile accessories, where demand for wireless headsets has risen dramatically in the past year. This increase has been driven by the growing availability of more stylish, feature packed and technically capable devices, notably the use of true wireless, on the market and, once again, the pandemic's impact on consumer behaviour and lifestyle,” states Filomena Iovino, 5G Devices, Smartphones, and Wearables Research Analyst at ABI Research.
Wireless headset shipments reached 502.7 million at the end of 2021 and are expected to exceed 700 million units in 2026, with a CAGR of 7.6%, and leading the smart accessory market. Features such as noise cancellation technology will improve the user experience and offer a more extensive range of future use cases. “Furthermore, as voice control becomes the dominant user interface for hands-free control of smartphones and smartwatches, true wireless headsets will also become significant drivers for the growth and adoption of voice assistants,” Iovino says. According to ABI Research, global TWS headset shipments will reach more than 600 million units in 2026 and a growth rate of 19%.
Additionally, certain segments of the mobile accessories market are set for fundamental change as total “in-box” shipments are to decline further due to the removal of items, notably chargers and headphones, by some leading smartphone vendors. Similarly, directives aimed at harmonizing charging ports to the use of a USB-C connector to reduce e-waste and improve consumer convenience could also alter the accessories market, potentially accelerating progress towards greater use of wireless charging and free-port devices. However, the wireless charging ecosystem is still relatively immature, and time will be required to improve specific features, such as charging times and the high costs of accessories, to ensure it can offer high-quality performance and enhanced user experiences.
Despite the introduction of 5G networks as a premium feature, many device types in the wearables and accessories sector will not become completely self-connected, instead they will still need to be tethered to a smartphone or hub. Indeed, the 5G attach rate for wearables and accessories will remain low of about 0.6% by 2026 and will be mainly related to sectors such as smartwatches and headsets. "High data gathering and low power efficiency will be the key strengths for these smart gadgets, raising demand and increasing popularity, particularly in the healthcare industry," explains Iovino. As a result, wearable technology might be transformed, as gadgets shrink while gaining new capabilities.
“Although 5G is likely to appear in in greater numbers of smartwatches in 2023, volume is expected to remain low at 3.55 million by 2026 while 4G will still represent the highest volume with 45.4 million shipments and a CAGR of 31.7% by this stage,” says Iovino.
Healthcare wearable devices will remain another dominant sector throughout the forecast period and one that lends itself well to cellular connectivity. These devices enable consumers to track vital healthcare information in and beyond a hospital setting. “Some healthcare devices are currently shipped with LPWA-LTE connectivity or 4G technology, expected to reach by 2026 0.86 and 0.72 million of units, respectively. Moreover, this could be a good sector for 5G owing to its low latency, reliability, and broadband speed connectivity,” Iovino concludes.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Mobile Accessories and Wearables Market Share and Forecasts market data report. This report is part of the company’s 5G Devices, Smartphones & Wearables research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Market Data spreadsheets are composed of deep data, market share analysis, and highly segmented, service-specific forecasts to provide detailed insight where opportunities lie.
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