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Smartwatch sales will hit 50 million this year, thanks to Apple

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You might say the smartwatch party started well before the Apple Watch debuted. However, there is something to be said about being fashionably late. It wasn’t until the Apple Watch debuted last April that other smartwatch manufacturers started reaping the benefits.

According to Gartner Research, smartwatch unit sales are expected to hit 50 million this year, which is up from 30 million last year. The research firm attributes this success to the Apple Watch, which is “popularizing wearables as a lifestyle trend.” Apple sold over seven million Apple Watches last year alone.

Smartwatches were available for a number of years before the Apple Watch. (I’ve been wearing one on my wrist since 2013.) However, smartwatches hadn’t any buzz until the Apple Watch came along.

Not only has the Apple Watch created a demand for smartwatches, it has created demand for the overall wearables market, which includes fitness bands like the Fitbit. Gartner expects 275 million wearable devices to be sold worldwide in 2016, which is an 18.4 percent increase over last year’s 232 million. This translates to about $11.5 billion in sales for 2016, and Gartner sees that climbing to $17.5 billion in 2019.

Companies are now stepping up their game. The first Google Android Wear smartwatches had simple designs, but higher quality and more fashionable versions are now available. Even traditional watchmakers like Tag Heuer and Fossil have jumped on the bandwagon.

Although these numbers are staggering, don’t expect smartwatches to be as popular as smartphones, says Gartner, which expects 374 million smartphones to ship in 2016 alone.

However, it’s still unclear how smartwatches will evolve. Right now smartwatches seem more of a want than a need, but new technologies like Samsung’s new bio processor could change that. If consumers see more of a “need” with smartwatches in the near future, Gartner’s already positive estimates could get shattered.

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