Will 2014 be the year of the wearable? That’s what research firm Canalys forecasts in a report released Wednesday morning that estimates that “smart bands”—wearables that can run apps, like the Pebble smartwatch or the Samsung Galaxy Gear—will ship 8 million units in 2014. That number is expected to triple next year to 23 million units shipped. And by 2017, Canalys forecasts over 45 million smart bands will be shipped.
Interestingly, that number refers specifically to smart bands and doesn’t include “basic bands”—wearable health monitors like the Fitbit Flex and Force, the Jawbone UP, and Basis. Canalys estimates that 17 million wearables, including both basic and smart bands, will be shipped in 2014, which means 9 million basic bands will be shipped this year.
“Basic band vendors have greater wearable expertise and have shipped greater numbers to date, but smart bands are already growing faster. Increasingly, smart bands will adopt basic band features as the two categories converge,” said Canalys VP and Principal Analyst Chris Jones, in a statement.
Breaking down the basic and smart band markets, Canalys researchers reveal that Fitbit dominates the basic band category with 58% of the market, followed by Jawbone UP, which accounts for 21% of the market.
Among smart bands, Samsung is currently the reining champion with 54% of the market, followed by Sony with a 19% market share, and Pebble with a 16% market share.
“The wearable band market is really about the consumerization of health,” said Canalys Analyst Daniel Matte, in a statement. “There will be exciting innovations that disrupt the medical industry this year, and with the increased awareness about personal wellbeing they will bring to users, having a computer on your wrist will become increasingly common.”
Researchers project that smart bands will be high-margin products that will offer vendors “enormous profit potential.” You don’t have to tell Apple twice.
Interestingly, Canalys researchers also forecast that Android will soon enter the smart band market “in a meaningful way,” and will be critical to developing the smart band app ecosystem.
Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly working on a smartwatch of its own, affectionately dubbed iWatch, which is said to have more of a health focus than other standard smartwatches. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Apple recently met with the FDA to discuss “mobile medical applications.” Meanwhile, 9to5 Mac has reported that Apple is going to bring a unique health focus to iOS 8 with “Healthbook,” which come with the usual monitors: calories burned, steps taken, miles walked, etc. Big deal. But here’s where Apple is going beyond just trying to build its own Fitbit or Basis: Healthbook will also be able to monitor the user’s vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, hydration, and possibly even blood data points like glucose levels.
This could have very real implications for all the “basic band” makers…