Global tech companies are eager to launch wearable devices in the Middle East and Africa as they compete for market share.
The wearable sector in the MEA is projected to grow more than 15 per cent year-on-year in volume by the end of this year. And sales of smart devices are set to overtake the basic device sector, which is forecast to decline, according to the International Data Corporation.
Smart wearables refer to devices that run third-party applications, while basic refers to those that can only perform specific functions and do not support third-party apps.
South Korea's Samsung, whose wearable sales in the Arabian Gulf grew three-fold in the past three years and has the second-biggest market share in MEA, will launch its latest Samsung Watch in the region soon.
"The smart watch is no more only a smart watch or just a tool, but it is now a fashion that is part of their [consumers] day-to-day life. Right from the design and its look – it has a 3D impact," said Tarek Sabbagh, head of IT and mobile division of Samsung Gulf Electronics.
"Samsung is also collaborating with fashion houses to have the best design for the strap and the body," he said.
In terms of market share, the top three wearable brands in the MEA this year are China’s Xiaomi (at 16.5 per cent), Samsung (16.4 per cent) and Apple (10.2 per cent).
Tech companies are boosting investments in their wearables businesses to help diversify income streams as demand for smartphones falls.
For Apple, which is leading the global wearable market, its gadgets were one of the highlights of its third quarter, which ended in June.
"The results were driven by continued strong sales of iPhone, services and wearables," said Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive.
Mr Cook said wearable sales were up 60 per cent year-on-year, while the Apple Watch had a record quarter with mid-40 per cent growth. The smart wearable industry in MEA is estimated to expand by up to 35.9 per cent year-on-year in value.
But the MEA basic wearable industry will register a drop of 9.6 per cent by the end of this year (excluding Turkey and Israel), according to IDC. In western Europe and the United States smart wearables are expected to grow by 6.6 per cent and 15.9 per cent year-on-year, respectively, by the end of the year.
Basic wearables will fall in value by 9.1 per cent in Europe and 31.6 per cent in the US.
"As the MEA region is coming from a low base of shipments, it is expectedly having relatively higher growth rates than other regions," said Isaac Ngatia, senior MEA research analyst at IDC.
“In addition to health and fitness devices, wearables such as cellular watches will be catalysts to this growth.”
The global market is expected to return to double-digit growth from next year until 2022 as smart watches grow in popularity, according to the IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker.
Gene Jiao, president of Huawei CBG in MEA told The National: "We want to boost wearables business in the region by relying more on technology and by meeting our consumers' expectations."
Huawei achieved a 147 per cent year-on-year increase in the wearables market in the first quarter of this year.
From an industry perspective, experts predict an increase in sales of wearables in the healthcare sector.
"With the adoption of connected devices and wearables, the healthcare sector has been capitalising on digital advancements to improve overall patient experiences and outcomes," said Tony Zabaneh, senior systems engineer for Fortinet, a software developer in California.
“We see good growth coming in health wearable industry.”
Huawei launched its TalkBand B5 last week.
"The Huawei TalkBand B5 is the best health wristband with calling features. Built with the industry's first triple-core audio chip and high-quality bluetooth connectivity, it is set to be the perfect companion to consumers' mobile devices," said David Wang, UAE country manager, Huawei consumer business group.
Besides monitoring heart rate, the TalkBand B5 also monitors different stages of sleep.