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UK Wearable Technology market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Wearable Technology market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

  • The term ‘wearable technology’ (also referred to as ‘wearable devices’ or ‘wearables’) in this Report refers to a category of technology devices that can be worn on the body, either as an accessory or as items of clothing.
  • Generally, wearable technology products can perform some of the same computing tasks as smartphones and have the ability to connect to the internet, which enables data exchange. In addition, they can provide sensory and scanning features such as biometrics and tracking of physiological functions and allow for real-time access to this information.
  • As far as this report is concerned, the definition encompasses smartwatches, fitness bands, GPS (Global Positioning System) watches, wearable cameras, smart clothing, smart jewellery, and smart glasses/headsets. Although VR (Virtual Reality) headsets could be considered items of wearable technology, they are not included in the definition for this Report; rather they are covered in their own, separate Mintel Virtual Reality – UK, December 2018 Report.
  • The terms ‘fitness bands’ and ‘fitness trackers’ are used interchangeably, and refer to wrist-worn devices without smart functionality (this is defined as the ability to download third party apps or interact with information from a smartphone).
  • Mintel market size estimates only cover fitness bands and smartwatches.
  • This report only covers the UK consumer market for wearable technology: B2B (Business-to-Business) sales are excluded from market data, and analysis refers only to trends in consumer markets unless specifically stated.

What you need to know

Ownership of smartwatches has remained static recently but the market is set for further growth, with strong intent to buy and a range of new releases from major brands. Apple launched its Series 4 Apple Watch in September 2018 with the focus firmly on health and fitness. The flagship device included an ECG (Electrocardiogram) to help monitor heart health and provide vital notifications. However, the use of the technology has as yet only been approved in the US (United States) and not the UK (United Kingdom). Besides a slightly larger watch face and smaller bezel, the rest of the upgrades to the device are fairly incremental. Samsung also released a new smartwatch in September 2018, bringing its latest device under the Galaxy brand instead of a linear successor to the Gear Watch 3. With Garmin and Fitbit also launching new smartwatches in 2018, the lines between fitness trackers and smartwatches are increasingly blurred.

Consumers re prioritising battery life and cellular service when it comes to smartwatches, with many of the functions requiring the device to be worn for long periods of time. While Samsung’s Galaxy Watch offers several days of use, the latest Apple Watch still has a relatively short battery life, requiring daily charging based on standard usage. Battery life is increasingly important due to the focus on health. Smartwatch users rate fitness tracking as the most frequent use of the device, while most people put health and wellbeing as their main interest for using wearable technology in general.

Smartwatches are still deemed too expensive by most consumers, although prices of previous generation models are beginning to come down and increased competition from network providers will help boost sales moving forward. Style and design will remain an issue however, despite launches from many fashion labels such as Armani Exchange, Skagen, and Hugo Boss. The size of smartwatch screens makes it difficult to replicate the styles of many traditional women’s watches, with many choosing to rely on fitness bands and sports watches as supplementary items. This does bode well for the smart jewellery market, with products such as the Oura ring being able to offer health tracking in a more subtle and stylish form. However, intent to buy wearable technology across the watch, clothing, headphone, and jewellery markets is still higher among men.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Adrian Reynolds, a leading analyst in the Technology sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Smartwatch sales are beginning to overtake those of fitness bands and sports watches as lines between the devices blur. Consumers are seeing real health benefits in the data collection and analysis such devices can provide, with many motivated to exercise more. While wearable technology brands continue to innovative across the jewellery, clothing and headphone markets, smartwatches will remain the primary focus, driven by annual launches from the major smartphone manufacturers Adrian Reynolds
Technology Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • Smartwatch sales set to overtake fitness trackers in 2018
              • Figure 1: Estimated unit sales of wrist-worn wearable devices, by product category, 2016-18
            • Smartphone updates and rising usage driving wearable tech innovation
              • Figure 2: Ownership of smartphones, January 2012-September 2018
            • Companies and brands
              • Apple Watch 4 launched in September 2018
                • Samsung launches new smartwatch under the Galaxy brand
                  • The consumer
                    • Smartwatch ownership expected to return to growth
                      • Figure 3: Ownership of wearable devices, December 2016-September 2018
                    • Fitbit is the most popular brand in wrist-worn technology…
                      • …but the Apple Watch is the most popular among men
                        • Figure 4: Wrist-worn device ownership, by brand, September 2018
                      • Over three in 10 people intend to buy wearable technology in the next year
                        • Figure 5: Intent to buy wearable technology, September 2018
                      • Battery life is the biggest factor for those looking to buy wrist-worn devices
                        • Figure 6: Important factors in boosting wrist-worn device ownership, September 2018
                      • Six in 10 owners use wrist-worn technology every day
                        • Figure 7: Wrist-worn technology use, September 2018
                      • A quarter of smartwatch owners use it most often for exercise
                        • Figure 8: Smartwatch activities, September 2018
                      • Health and wellness is the leading area of interest for wearable technology
                        • Figure 9: Uses of wearable technology, September 2018
                      • Over seven in 10 feel wrist-worn technology has improved their physical health
                        • Figure 10: Attitudes towards fitness tracking wearables, September 2018
                      • Seven in 10 still see smartwatches as too expensive
                        • Figure 11: Attitudes towards smartwatches, September 2018
                      • Half of people prefer smartwatches from tech companies over fashion brands
                        • Figure 12: Attitudes towards wearable technology, September 2018
                      • What we think
                      • Issues and Insights

                        • Wearables market can benefit from health focus and digital detox trend
                          • The facts
                            • The implications
                              • How far can the smartwatch market grow?
                                • The facts
                                  • The implications
                                  • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                    • Smartwatch sales set to overtake fitness trackers in 2018
                                      • Other wearable technology products remain niche markets
                                        • Smartphone updates and rising usage driving wearable tech innovation
                                          • Focus on health and fitness continues to drive interest in wearables
                                            • Increasing choice of styles and brands for smartwatch shoppers
                                            • Market Size and Segmentation

                                              • Smartwatch sales set to overtake fitness trackers in 2018
                                                • Other wearable technology products remain niche markets
                                                  • Figure 13: Estimated unit sales of wrist-worn wearable devices, by product category, 2016-18
                                              • Market Drivers

                                                • Smartphone updates and rising usage driving wearable tech innovation
                                                  • Figure 14: Ownership of smartphones, January 2012-September 2018
                                                • Consumer electronics spending could be limited by import prices
                                                  • Figure 15: Proportion of consumers who have bought electrical equipment in the last three months or plan to in the next three months, June 2012-July 2018
                                                • Focus on health and fitness continues to drive interest in wearables
                                                  • Figure 16: Fitness mobile app usage, July 2018
                                                • Increasing choice of styles and brands for smartwatch shoppers
                                                  • Discounted models
                                                  • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                    • Apple Watch 4 launched in September 2018
                                                      • Samsung launches new smartwatch under the Galaxy brand
                                                        • Gamin increasingly moving beyond sports and into the smartwatch market
                                                          • Fitbit expands smartwatch range with the Versa
                                                            • Snapchat releases updated range of Spectacles
                                                            • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                              • Apple Watch 4 launched in September 2018
                                                                • Figure 17: Apple Watch Series 4
                                                              • Samsung launches new smartwatch under the Galaxy brand
                                                                • Figure 18: Samsung’s Galaxy Watch in three designs
                                                              • Gamin increasingly moving beyond sports and into the smartwatch market
                                                                • Figure 19: Garmin’s Fenix 5S Plus, 5X Plus, and 5 Plus smartwatches
                                                              • Fitbit expands smartwatch range with the Versa
                                                                • Figure 20: Fitbit’s Versa smartwatch
                                                              • Fashion labels look to offer more stylish smartwatches
                                                                • Figure 21: Armani Exchange Connected range of smartwatches
                                                              • Snapchat releases updated range of Spectacles
                                                                • Oura ring offers constant wearable data collection
                                                                  • Figure 22: The Oura smart ring
                                                                • New launches in the smart clothing segment
                                                                • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                  • Smartwatch ownership expected to return to growth
                                                                    • Fitbit is the most popular brand in wrist-worn technology
                                                                      • The Apple Watch is the most popular among men
                                                                        • Over three in 10 people intend to buy wearable technology in the next year
                                                                          • Men showing far higher intent to buy wearable technology
                                                                            • Battery life is the biggest factor for those looking to buy wrist-worn devices
                                                                              • Six in 10 owners use wrist-worn technology every day
                                                                                • Health and wellness is the leading area of interest for wearable technology
                                                                                  • The majority feel wrist-worn technology has improved their physical health
                                                                                    • Seven in 10 still see smartwatches as too expensive
                                                                                    • Wearable Technology Ownership

                                                                                      • Smartwatch ownership expected to return to growth…
                                                                                        • …while wearable camera ownership stagnates
                                                                                          • The “hearables” segment is one to watch
                                                                                            • Figure 23: Ownership of wearable devices, December 2016-September 2018
                                                                                          • Men much more likely to own smartwatches…
                                                                                            • …but peak ownership for all wrist-worn tech is among 25-34-year-olds
                                                                                              • Figure 24: Wrist-worn technology ownership, by gender and age, September 2018
                                                                                            • Fitbit is the most popular brand in wrist-worn technology…
                                                                                              • …but the Apple Watch is the most popular among men
                                                                                                • Figure 25: Wrist-worn device ownership, by brand, September 2018
                                                                                            • Intent to Buy Wearable Technology

                                                                                              • Over three in 10 people intend to buy wearable technology in the next year
                                                                                                • Figure 26: Intent to buy wearable technology, September 2018
                                                                                              • One in 10 people are planning to buy in four or more wearable tech categories
                                                                                                • Figure 27: Repertoire of intent to buy, September 2018
                                                                                              • Men showing far higher intent to buy
                                                                                                • Figure 28: Intent to buy wearable technology, by gender, September 2018
                                                                                              • Battery life is the biggest factor for those looking to buy wrist-worn devices…
                                                                                                • …while four in 10 looking to buy want cellular service
                                                                                                  • Figure 29: Important factors in boosting wrist-worn device ownership, September 2018
                                                                                                • Strong battery life and cellular service together would motivate three in 10 people
                                                                                                  • Figure 30: TURF Analysis – Influential features of smartwatch/fitness band/sports watch, September 2018
                                                                                              • Usage of Wearable Technology

                                                                                                • Six in 10 owners use wrist-worn technology every day
                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Wrist-worn technology use, September 2018
                                                                                                • A quarter of smartwatch owners use it most often for exercise
                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Smartwatch activities, September 2018
                                                                                                • Health and wellness is the leading area of interest for wearable technology
                                                                                                  • Figure 33: Uses of wearable technology, September 2018
                                                                                                • Women are placing greater emphasis on wearable technology for health
                                                                                                  • Figure 34: Uses of wearable technology, by gender, September 2018
                                                                                                • Half of 25-34-year-olds would use wearable technology to monitor health
                                                                                                  • Figure 35: Uses of wearable technology, by age, September 2018
                                                                                              • Attitudes towards Wearable Technology

                                                                                                • Over seven in 10 feel wrist-worn technology has improved their physical health…
                                                                                                  • …but this declines to just over half when it comes to mental health
                                                                                                    • Figure 36: Attitudes towards fitness tracking wearables, September 2018
                                                                                                  • Seven in 10 still see smartwatches as too expensive
                                                                                                    • Figure 37: Attitudes towards smartwatches, September 2018
                                                                                                  • Half of people prefer smartwatches from tech companies over fashion brands
                                                                                                    • Four in 10 people aged 16-34 feel technology use is impacting mental health
                                                                                                      • Figure 38: Attitudes towards wearable technology, September 2018
                                                                                                  • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations, and Supporting Information

                                                                                                      • Abbreviations
                                                                                                        • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                          • TURF – Methodology
                                                                                                            • Figure 39: Table - TURF Analysis – Influential features of smartwatch/fitness band/sports watch, September 2018