Activity trackers top UK wearables

27 October 2014

LONDON: Health and fitness activity trackers make up 39% of the wearables market in the UK, but smartwatches represent only 11%, the latest industry data has shown.

In total, 420,000 wearable units worth £51m were sold in the UK between January and August 2014 – and health and fitness trackers accounted for 163,000 of them, according to retail tracking firm GfK.

However, despite growing sales, the research firm said wearables are a long way from becoming a mass market and price appears to be the biggest hurdle.

In its online survey of 1,000 smartphone owners, GfK found 28% of consumers believe cost to be the most important issue when buying an activity tracker, Mobile News reported.

Furthermore, nearly half (47%) prefer to buy an activity tracker from a well-known technology company rather than a retailer in the fashion, luxury or sports categories.

This view is shared by consumers in four other markets that GfK covered – ranging from the US (42%), Germany (51%), China (54%) and South Korea (69%).

Turning back to the UK market, GfK found wrist sport computers (which record activity such as running) are the second most popular wearable device (111,000 units or 26% market share), followed by action cameras, headsets and glasses (99,500 or 24%), and smartwatches (46,500 or 11%).

Part of the problem facing smartwatches is that they are still considered "gadgets for geeks", the report said, because they're viewed as being aesthetically unappealing and without a clear function.

However, that may change with a soon-to-be-launched smartwatch from Microsoft and next year's launch of the Apple Watch, the Guardian reported.

In other findings, more than two-thirds (69%) of survey respondents said they would wear clothes or jewellery with integrated activity trackers, with bracelets (33%) and shoes (26%) the most popular overall.

Men are more interested in connected clothes, such as T-shirts, shoes and belts, while women prefer bracelets, necklaces and rings, the survey also revealed.

GfK director Anne Giulianotti said wearable activity trackers have caught on with a small percentage of consumers, but vendors should explain more about the functional possibilities offered by wearables and other connected technology.

"Manufacturers need to think about educating consumers not only about wearables, but about the possibilities of the smart home and smart car – as well as all the other options from The Internet of Things – if they are to convince people that the functionality offered is worthy of the price," she said.

Data sourced from GfK, Mobile News, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff