Smartwatches growing in popularity for fitness tracking

Fitness trackers are still the most popular device for people who want to monitor their health and activity, but smartwatches are closing the gap.

That’s according to the new NPD Group Connected Intelligence Activity Trackers and Sports Report, which looks at wearable technology choices among different exercise groups. NPD Group found that, among wearable owners who exercise, fitness trackers are still more popular than smartwatches in most exercise categories.

Runners are the first group to show a slightly higher number of smartwatch owners/users, with 22% reporting that they run on a regular basis (compared to 21% of fitness tracker users).

But while smartwatches are gaining traction in this sector, they are not cutting into the sales of fitness bands — indicating there is room for both types of devices, says CNET.

“Activity tracker ownership continues to grow rapidly with more than double the smartwatch base,” commented Eddie Hold, president of NPD Connected Intelligence. “While we are seeing that some forms of exercise are more likely to be impacted by the smartwatch, there are still a number of consumers that are planning to purchase activity trackers to monitor their fitness. Of folks that report they exercise several times a week, 47% are planning to purchase an activity tracker soon.”

Such devices generally focus on a small number of activities and functions, such as steps taken and heart rate, although some trackers have started to add more functions. Meanwhile, many smartwatches already offer health-related functions, making them an attractive option for exercise/sports-focused consumers.

The report notes that, as smartwatches move out of the early adopter phase and become more mainstream, the focus on fitness-related activities has grown.

“The activity tracker became the device of choice for the middle-aged consumer looking to get in better shape by starting an exercise routine. But that’s not where the story has to end,” said Hold. “Claims that the smartwatch would lead to the death of the activity tracker have so far proved unfounded.

“With a longer battery life, activity trackers have a strong target audience and are continuing to evolve. That said, activity tracker companies must continue to broaden their portfolios to satisfy more exercise-focused consumers — combining specialist functions with generalist capabilities.”

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