More than 17 million wearable wristband devices, such as the Fitbit Flex and Nike+ Fuelband, will be shipped in 2014, according to analyst firm Canalys.
With 1.6 million wristband devices estimated to have been shipped in the second half of 2013, Fitbit became the market leader thanks to the launch of the affordable Flex and Force devices. The company had a market share of more than 50 per cent for basic bands in the second half of the year, said Canalys.
Samsung meanwhile accounted for the majority of smart bands, or smart watches, shipped during the year with its Galaxy Gear.
“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 Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys.
Smart bands are estimated by Canalys to hit eight million shipments in 2014, growing to 23 million in 2015, and 45 million by 2017. High-margin smart bands with sophisticated sensor technology have enormous profit potential, according to the analyst firm.
Despite currently being a relatively small market for fitness needs, Canalys believes wearable bands represent a “massive opportunity in the medical and wellness segment”.
“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,” said Daniel Matte, a Canalys analyst.
Matte added that Android will be a critical element in developing the smart band app ecosystem, although it requires significant alterations to be suitable for wearable devices.
“Canalys expects Android to enter the smart band market soon in a meaningful way. Battery life and quality of sensor data will be vital metrics of success for all smart bands,” he said.
Wearable technology was a hot topic at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January while Apple’s recruitment of leading talent in the health sector has fuelled speculation that the iPhone maker is developing a smart watch.