Consumer interest in buying non-essential devices dropped in the first quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, negatively impacting demand for wearables, reports ABI Research. The sector is also dealing with issues associated with a hampered supply chain.

Wearable shipments in 2020 are now expected to be 254 million, down from the previously forecasted 281 million. Although a significant drop, this new COVID-19 impacted forecast is a minor increase from the 241 million shipments in 2019. However, this now puts the estimated year-over-year increase at 5%, compared to 23% between 2018 and 2019 and the previously expected 17% for 2020.

“While wearables will see fewer shipments this year than originally expected, shipments of devices that can track and monitor healthcare vitals has lowered the impact,” said Stephanie Tomsett, research analyst at ABI Research. “Healthcare wearables are already being utilized to help track the progression of COVID-19 and monitor patients remotely.”

While healthcare wearables are aiding current situations, all wearable device types are expected to see a small amount of increase in the second half of 2020, with smartwatches and sports, fitness, and wellness trackers leading this growth. However, consumers and enterprises will now prefer wearables that feature more health-related monitoring capabilities.

Many device manufacturers are offering or developing advanced monitoring features such as ECG tracking, sleep apnea detection, arrhythmia detection, and blood oxygen tracking. The incorporation of these features into devices that already have several other features (particularly smartwatches) allows users to utilize one device rather than multiple devices for different purposes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a higher health awareness to all individuals around the world,” said Tomsett. “Wearables with advanced health monitoring features will begin to buoy the wearables market in the second half of 2020 and pave the way for 289 million wearable shipments by 2021 and 329 million by 2022 as the world recovers from the pandemic.”

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