Appetite for wearables keeps on growing
Even though wearable tech has been around since the 1980s, with the technology really starting to take off in the 2010s with the popularisation of the smart watch and various fitness trackers, the 2020s are looking like the decade when wearable tech adoption really hits an inflection point.
Based on a new report by the IDC, that inflection point at which wearables start to get seriously close to the ubiquity of other devices like tablets, and maybe even smartphones, is a lot closer than expected.
According to data collected by the IDC as part of its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, wearable tech companies shipped more than 104.6mn units in Q1 of this year, the highest number of units ever sold in a single quarter, and a 34.4% increase over the 77.8mn units shipped in the same quarter of last year.
From the Bottom Up
While the IDC notes that Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi maintain the largest shares of the market, each commanding double digit percentages of sales, the report also found that the majority of growth over the past year is the result of smaller tech firms entering and thriving in the space.
"Larger companies have certainly drawn attention to the worldwide wearables market, yet it is the smaller companies fueling growth," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables Team.
That isn’t to say that the Apple watch is being outgunned by yahoo startups drunk on venture capital funding. Llamas added that the IDCs report found the small scale wearables companies finding the most success are the ones cornering a niche of their own. “Rather than compete head-to-head with products similar to the market leaders, these smaller companies have instead focused on specific markets and thrived with different solutions,” he explained.
Breaking the Monotony of the Smart Watch
Over the past five years, it seemed as though the success of wearables was directly correlating with a withering of the market’s diversity. Smart watches, fitness trackers, and VR headsets dominated sales and the public imagination - sadly at the expense of some of the weirder designs that defined previous decades.
Now, however, IDC’s research seems to be pointing to a reversal of that trend.
"Not only is the market being fueled by smaller brands, but newer form factors are also starting to gain some traction," said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
"Wearable patches, rings, and even audio glasses are starting to differentiate themselves from the typical watches, bands, and headphones by offering tech that is hidden yet functional. Audio glasses from the likes of Bose, Amazon, Razer, and others are also going a step further by allowing consumers to be more comfortable with being always connected and are working towards consumer acceptance of AR glasses further down the line.
What’s next for a post-smartphone LG?
South Korean mega-conglomerate LG made its dramatic exit from the smartphone business at the beginning of April 2021. While the company’s weird, wacky, and kind of wonderful smartphone designs never managed to create the kind of commercial success the company was clearly after, LG’s exit from the business raises one important question: What’s next?
As a brand, LG is thoroughly baked into the fabric of Korean life. The company’s home electronics and white goods are popular overseas, but its presence in Korea is on a whole other level of ubiquitous. Every air conditioner in my 20 storey apartment building is made by LG. The corporation owns one South Korea’s three major telecom carriers, and a subsidiary of LG’s Chem division, LG Energy, is having enough success making car batteries for everyone from Tesla and General Motors to Renault that it filed for what promises to be one of the year’s biggest IPOs this week. My toothpaste is made by LG.
People who worry about LG’s exit from the smartphone business clearly don’t understand just how big this company is. All the closure of its mobile device business means is that this titanic organisation is funneling wasted resources into something more profitable.
When it announced the closure of its smartphone business in April, despite ongoing concerns about what to do with its overseas factory assets, LG said that the staff working in its mobile business would be rotated away to other areas. So, where have they gone, and what are they doing now?
Is LG’s Smartphone Division Getting Reimagined as a Software Company?
There’s a good chance that a number of LG’s smartphone division’s employees have wound up in the company’s software development arm. On Thursday, LG unveiled a new mobile app designed to improve pedestrian safety (if you had to dodge delivery drivers watching netflix on their phones while driving at 30 miles per hour down the pavement on your way to shops everyday, you’d agree with me that this is a welcome piece of news in its own right) which is just the latest development in a flurry of app-based activity at the firm.
Last week, LG also announced that FOSSLight (Free and Open Source Software Light) system, its open source software management tool, will be made available free of charge to third party developers. TechRadar also reported that, according to several LG analysts, the company is looking to “bolster its presence in the software community.”
The new pedestrian safety app, called Soft V2X, is deployed in vehicles, and can warn drivers of potential collision risks between them and nearby pedestrians by relying on ultra-fast data exchange between the app, the vehicle, and surrounding devices. Basically, if the app detects it’s getting really close to a pedestrian’s smartphone really, really fast, then it will intervene with an alert. Presumably it can pause Season One of Bridgerton to offer a polite warning to look at the road.