Get ready to see a lot more smartwatches on a lot more wrists this year. But the forthcoming Apple Watch might not be the wearables industry's silver bullet, at least not in its current iteration, one research group says.
Framingham, Mass.-based IDC forecasts that the total volume of "smart wearables" -- mainly smartwatches -- will reach 25.7 million units in 2015, up more than 510 percent from the 4.2 million units shipped last year, according to its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report. "Basic wearables" -- devices like fitness trackers that don't run third-party apps -- will grow from 15.4 million units in 2014 to 20 million units this year, resulting in 30 percent year-over-year growth.
Overall, shipments of wearables should be up more than 133 percent this year over 2014, IDC says.
IDC attributes much of the increased interest in smartwatches this year to the launch of the Apple Watch, as it "raises the profile of wearables in general." But IDC also is skeptical that the device will be a true game-changer.
"While Apple's entry into the market is symbolic, the key to success will be to create compelling use cases for the average consumer," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Device Trackers, said in a statement. "Many users will need a good reason to replace a traditional watch or accessory with a wrist-worn device or some other form of wearable that will likely require daily charging and occasional software upgrades."
Meanwhile, though, Apple Watch competitors like the Pebble are gaining serious interest among consumers. The company's lastest line of smartwatches -- called Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel -- raised more than $20 million in a recent Kickstarter campaign.
IDC forecasts that by 2019, total shipment volumes of wearables could reach 126.1 million units, resulting in a five-year compound annual growth rate of 45.1 percent. So, perhaps that "compelling use case" for consumers isn't too far off on the horizon.