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Why Smart Wearables Will Be One of the Tech Industry’s Few Bright Spots

The proliferation of smart, wearable devices like watches and fitness trackers will be one of the tech industry’s bright spots over the next few years, according to a new report from research firm International Data Corp.

Wearables shipments, which include everything from Fitbit’s trackers to Samsung’s Tizen smartwatches and Apple‘s AirPods, jumped almost 9% in 2018 to 125.3 million devices, IDC said in a report released on Monday. The market will grow an average of 11% annually to reach 189.9 million devices shipped in 2022, the firm said. Still, the projection is modestly more conservative than IDC’s report back in June that forecast wearable shipments would hit 199.8 million by the end of 2021.

Two major trends are driving the growth. Growing interest in increasingly more capable smartwatches is bolstering that segment and expanded interest from consumers in developing markets is helping fuel sales of lower priced devices.

“The rise of smart wearables will not just be in mature markets, but also from emerging markets in Asia/Pacific and elsewhere,” senior analyst Jitesh Ubrani wrote in the report. “Japan will play an equally important role as they consume more than one third of all smart wearables.”

The continued expansion of wearables comes at a critical time for the tech hardware industry, as sales growth of both smartphones and personal computers have slowed to a crawl. Smartphone sales are expected to decline for the first time ever in 2018 as the global market reaches a saturation point. Meanwhile PC sales, flat or declining for several years, are projected to shrink by 2% a year through 2022, according to the most recent IDC forecast. And tablet sales have declined for the past four years, with no improvement in sight.

Viewed on a company basis, Apple (AAPL) should remain the top software ecosystem for wearables, with a market share of almost 36% in 2022, IDC noted. Android, the freely available software from Google (GOOGL) used by many Chinese manufacturers, will be second with about 22% share. And Google’s more proprietary WearOS software will rank third with 20% share. Samsung, Fitbit (FIT), and Garmin (GRMN) will also remain prominent smaller players, IDC said.