UK smartwatch and fitness band sales more than doubled last year

Smartwatch and fitness band sales more than doubled in the UK in 2015, but a wearable technology 'explosion' akin to mobile is still some way off.

Fitness wearable brand Fitbit's TV campaign last year
Fitness wearable brand Fitbit's TV campaign last year

Brits bought 3m fitness bands and smartwatches last year, up 118% on 2014, according to data from Mintel covering the 12 months to September 2015.

They still prefer fitness bands to smartwatches, since the devices have been on the market for longer and are cheaper. Brits bought 1.9m fitness bands in 2015, compared with 1.1m smartwatches.

It is fundamental that wearables do not overload users with information and, instead, filter selectively what information is disseminated

But that’s a marked change on 2014, when fitness bands accounted for 91% of wearable tech purchases in 2014, and smartwatches accounted for 9%.

While Mintel didn’t give a breakdown on brand preferences, it’s likely that the arrival of the Apple Watch in early 2015 almost single-handedly boosted smartwatch sales.

Since wearable tech is still in its infancy, and has a shorter life cycle than most consumer electrics devices, some sales are also down to consumers upgrading previous gadgets.

While smartphone adoption rates rose rapidly after the release of the first iPhone, wearable technology might progress more slowly as consumers puzzle out the benefits.

Currently, 14% of Brits own any wearable technology.

Mintel analyst Sara Ballaben said: "While fitness bands are, on average, less expensive than other wearables and have been on the market for relatively longer, higher adoption rates are also a reflection of the fact that wrist-worn devices offer a compelling practical benefit to active users."

Ballaben added that brands which launch aesthetically pleasing, non-techy devices will fare better.

Some 60% of consumers remain worried by the security implications of such a personal device. And more than half say they don’t see the value in wearable devices, suggesting brands need to do more to sell the benefits.

While consumers are open to receiving different types of information through their wearable devices, Bellaben adds that that preference varies.

She said: "It is fundamental that wearables do not overload users with information and, instead, filter selectively what information is disseminated.

"This suggests that customisation should go beyond a device’s design to allow users to personalise the use they make of their wearable, as well as the range and number of alerts they receive." 

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