We’re heading into the last couple of weeks of 2016, and this has been a pretty significant year for the Quantified Self. From the leaders in the wearable market seeing unprecedented losses, to a big merger some weeks back, to a spectacle that made lifelogging sexy again: we’ve seen it all this year.
Looking back, the numbers really tell a story. A story where some areas might be plateauing out, but at the same time creating areas for other aspects of the Quantified Self. And these trendlines shall form the crux of this article, as this author rewinds things by a year so that we can see everything from a bigger perspective – panning out over the twelve months of 2016!
SMARTWATCHES VS. FITNESS TRACKERS
Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers formed the major chunk of wearables sold this year, but when pitted against each other, the numbers of units of shipments tell a pretty interesting story.
The third quarter of 2016 saw a total of 22.9 million unit shipments of wearables worldwide. Fitbit took the major chunk of these numbers, with the Charge HR, Charge 2 and Flex 2 driving the company’s growth this quarter. Xiaomi’s Mi Band still plays well with the masses, with the second iteration of the uber cheap fitness tracker launched earlier this year and doing very well.
When compared with the statistics for Q3 2015, we see a marginal growth in the number of shipments, with the total number of shipments in Q3 2015 standing at 22.4 million units. The statistics in this regard come from IDC, which also states that the major driver has been the basic wearables (ones which do not support third party applications), as opposed to those which do.
According to IDC, basic wearables still account for over 85% of the market, and their shipments in Q2 2016 grew by 48.8% from the Q2 2015 levels. The more advanced wearables, on the other hand, are seeing a slouch in sales, with the shipments reducing by 27.2% over the second quarters of 2015 and 2016.
Now while we’re on wearables, let’s discuss the other end of the spectrum – smartwatches, and here’s where things are actually surprising. The wearable market actually lost out in the number of shipments when the Q3 figures from 2015 and 2016 are compared: 5.5 million units shipped in Q3 2015 converted to a meagre 2.8 million units in Q3 2016, with Apple turning out as the biggest loser, and the overall market tumbling by 51.6%.
In this regard, IDC states that the main reason behind the fall of the market is owing to OEMs not having a clear idea of their target audience and the use cases therefore not being suited for everyone. Also, announcements of smartwatches took place before their actual launch in the consumer market, owing to which there was an unnecessary gap between the generation of interest and the product hitting the market.
Apple still leads the fray when it comes to smartwatches, followed by Garmin at a close second. Garmin’s activities are worth taking a look at in 2017, mainly because their smartwatch lineup and the applications developed for them are all health tracking centric.
So, here’s the bottom line. In the wearable market, fitness trackers – specially simple, no-nonsense, fitness trackers – are gaining traction over the multi faceted smartwatches. We expect basic, cheap trackers to become more popular in 2017, while bridge devices (which combine the simplicity of a basic tracker with the features of a smartwatch) might be a new arena that can be explored.
THE WEARABLE VENDORS OF 2016
Now that we’ve covered the main numbers in the fitness tracker and smartwatch sectors, let’s take a look at which vendors had the biggest market share in 2016.
According to IDC, Garmin turned out to be the major gainer in market share in 2016, with its 2% share in Q3 2015 growing to about 21% in Q3 2016. Samsung doubled its market share as well, from 7% to 14%. This rise ate into Apple’s market share, with the Cupertino giant converting 70% market share to 41%.
In the fitness trackers sector, mostly the numbers from Q3 2015 remain unchanged with those of Q3 2016. Key trends to look out for include cheap trackers from Xiaomi, specialised ones from Fitbit and Garmin, and the foray of new players in this sphere.
Overall though, there has been a marginal increase in the number of shipments over the three quarters of 2016 so far. Most of the brands have their highs and lows, but the total number of shipments is seeing a steady growth.
SNAP – MAKING LIFELOGGING COOLER
One of the key developments in lifelogging devices this year has to be Snap’s Spectacles. Offered in a delightfully hip design, with vivid colours, it does what Snapchat has been best at: recording those precious few seconds of your lives.
But in this case, it takes things a step further and steps out of the mobile phone, onto a super fun frame. Think of it as a Google Glass, minus the nerdiness and sophistication. Just a simple and contextual interface, and Snapchat’s own marketing driving the product. Neat stuff!
GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!
We’ve always talked about gamification in lifelogging, and 2016 saw Pokémon Go become insanely popular as the application which literally got people out of their seats, into the streets. Whether it was to catch a super rare Vaporeon, or just catch the regular Rattata, people walked the streets of their city, burning calories and having the time of their lives.
Narrative’s Clip was killed off in mid-2016, resulting in the demise of one of the forerunners of lifelogging devices. (Update: A team from Narrative has acquired the assets and is working on making Narrative Clip 2) Pebble as a company was acquired by Fitbit some time back, which marks the second significant acquisition made by Fitbit this year (the first being Coin). These takeovers indicate big things from Fitbit in 2017, but more on this later!
SO, WHAT DO WE HAVE?
Fitness trackers are in. Smartwatches… well, they need to get in before the doors close.
Snap Spectacles? Epic win. With the proper supply-demand ratio and appropriate marketing, we might be looking at a significant lifelogging tool, perhaps one which rises out of the ashes of Narrative’s Clip series.
All things considered, lots of stories made headlines in 2016. And we expect just as many, if not more, in 2017.
Editor’s note: Apart from some quality hardware tracking products, we are seeing the software side of the Quantified Self starting to mature. Health aggregators and sleep tracking apps have seen massive adoption this year. We predict, 2017 will definitely bring out more mature software in this space. AI & Machine learning will definitely help new software innovations around the Quantified Self.
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