The Apple Watch is expected to have 25.9% of the smartwatch market in 2023

The market for wearable devices is on track to reach global shipments of 222.9 million units in 2019, growing to 302.3 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9%, according to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Apple continues to thrive in the market.

Behind the growth of wearables is the propagation of smartwatches and ear-worn devices, which will account for more than 70% of all wearable shipments by 2023, according to IDC.

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"Not only is the market diversifying in terms of form factors, but it is also diversifying in terms of connectivity and distribution," says Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers. "Among all watches, close to half will have the ability to connect to a cellular network by 2023 as consumers along with enterprises and healthcare look to free the watch from the phone and as telcos push forward subsidies or financing options for watches with cellular service."

In addition to the proliferation of devices is the expansion of wearables use cases," adds Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables team. "Smartwatches, as always, will still tell you the time, but will move deeper into health and fitness and connect with multiple applications and systems, both at work and within the home,” he says. "Ear-worn devices, while still centered on providing audio, will nudge into other areas like language translation, smart assistant deployment, and coaching."

Watches are forecast to grow from 91.8 million units in 2019 to 131.6 million in 2023 with a five-year CAGR of 9.4%. Apple is expected to lead the way, capturing 25.9% share of all watches in 2023. Beyond Apple will be a variety of brands running different operating systems, including Android, WearOS, Tizen, and others. 

Ear-worn devices such as Apple’s AirPods are expected to grow from 72 million units in 2019 to 105.3 million in 2023. While many of these will be used as the front end to smart assistants or be used to track health-related metrics, IDC also expects brands to push forth added benefits such as allowing consumers the ability to cope with hearing loss or giving users the ability to fine tune their daily auditory experience.