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China to outpace the US in wearable tech as usage doubles over past two years

China’s wearables market is set to surpass the United States this year, as more than a fifth of internet users adopt devices such as fitness trackers and smart watches.

According to eMarketer’s first wearables forecast for China, the country’s monthly usage of wearable devices, such as an Apple Watch or Mi Band, has doubled from 10 per cent of the internet population in 2015 to 21 per cent in 2017.

The report puts China marginally ahead of the US, where wearables’ penetration is expected to reach 20.4 per cent this year.

However, eMarketer’s prediction falls short of a forecast released earlier this year by Mintel, which stated 52 per cent of Chinese consumers own a smart wristband and 42 per cent own a smartwatch, thereby highlighting a significant gap between those who own wearable devices and those who actually wear them.

Mintel’s research also showed that only 32 of consumers believed wearables to be fashionable, a number that declined to just 27 per cent of those aged 20-24.

However, despite this, eMarketer is buoyant about the sector’s rapid growth in China over the next three years. By 2021, the media monitor estimates that almost a quarter of adult internet users in China will be using a wearable device regularly.

The wearable technology market first began gaining ground in China with the launch of American fitness tracker Fitbit in 2014. However, the product was quickly overtaken by Xiaomi’s cheaper Mi Band, which “ignited the market and helped to drive mass adoption among the tech savvy Chinese”, according to eMarketer.

Meanwhile, the launch of the Apple Watch in 2015 appealed to the rising middle class who have a propensity for high-end luxury goods, the report added.

“Wearable devices will continue to experience high growth among those in China,” said Shelleen Shum, senior forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “Thanks to the availability of inexpensive devices with constantly improving functionalities, coupled with an enthusiasm for new technology among working adults, it is not surprising that the adoption of wearable technology is on the rise in China and will surpass the US in 2017.”

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