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9 Percent of Americans Will Wear Smartwatches by Next Year, Study Claims

Meanwhile, sales of activity trackers are expected to level out.
The Apple Watch Sport. Photo: Apple

The Apple Watch Sport. Photo: Apple

Say what you will about the Apple Watch, but there's no denying that Apple has pushed smartwatches — and, by extension, wearables — into the mainstream consciousness. By the end of next year, nearly one in 10 American adults will own a smartwatch, according to a study released Thursday by the NPD Group. As smartwatches increase in popularity, sales of activity trackers will begin to flatten out, NPD says.

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That's not to say that activity trackers will disappear — quite the contrary — but NPD is betting that the most basic versions, like those that count your steps, are on the way out. That's because, lo and behold, counting steps is only a small part of what people want from activity trackers. And they get bored with them easily: An alarming 40 percent of activity tracker owners stop using the devices within six months, says NPD.

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Simply put, people want more. More advanced activity trackers — ones that support GPS and heart-rate monitoring, and are rugged and waterproof — will continue to sell well alongside smartwatches that offer those same functions, NPD predicts. As more apps are developed for smartwatches, their appeal will increase even more.

"While all of these new products will definitely help drive demand, the real test will be the apps for the smartwatches," says Eddie Hold, vice president of NPD's Connected Intelligence unit. “There will definitely be a demand for these devices and the use-case will follow, but smartwatch manufacturers and app developers need to make these products become ‘need to haves’ rather than ‘nice to haves.'" Fair enough.