Toward the end of last year, the consensus research suggested wearable penetration in the US was around 20%. In early February, a study we conducted suggested the number had risen to 23% and our most recent data suggests it is now 26% of US consumers with a wearable.
Without question, this category continues to grow and is still the fastest growing category in consumer tech. Even if the technology is not bleeding edge innovation — it is trying to keep a low-price after all — it is striking a chord with consumers for reasons of health, fitness, and communication primarily.
While the majority of the consumer market still has no immediate plans to buy a wearable, a recent sentiment study we conducted suggests the category has potential to continue to break into the mass market. Here are a few data points of interest.
- 28% of respondents said they could see themselves owning a wearable technology product someday
- 26% said they were not opposed or turned off by the idea of a wearable but they still don’t see a need for one
- 16% said they were more interested in a wearable today than they were a few months ago
- 6% said they will never own a wearable technology product
I gave consumers many statements and allowed them to check all they agreed with. I came away encouraged as the sentiment toward wearables was not overwhelmingly negative, quite the opposite actually. I interpret much of the data we captured as positive for the category.
While we can debate whether every person in major markets will own some kind of wearable technology, I do believe it will reach and likely surpass tablet penetration in the US which is in the 50-60% range if we include owners who were handed down a previous generation tablet. The question in my mind is, when will wearable penetration cross 50% in the US? Using some historical comparables, current growth rates, and several market studies we have done to understand intent and interest, my educated guess has wearables passing 50% penetration in the US sometime in 2018. That would put its adoption cadence similar to tablets in crossing 50% penetration in a market in roughly 5 years.
The tablet’s penetration speed, which was the fastest adopted technology we have seen to date, was a bit more impressive given its price. Given the cost of a Fitbit and other products, some that start below $100, we are still on a 5-6 year adoption cadence to get to 50%. It’s telling that the category is a bit harder for consumers to wrap their brains around but our research indicates directionally there is value, It just needs time and product maturity to help sell the value to the mass market.