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Wearable tech gains momentum; sales expected to triple this year

Global ExpansionMotorola Mobility LLCSony Corp.Samsung Galaxy Gear

The global wearable computing market is rapidly expanding beyond early-adopter status. 

After a strong year in 2013, shipment volumes for wearable tech will exceed 19 million units this year, more than tripling last year's sales, according to market research firm IDC. It projected that the global market would surge to 111.9 million units in 2018, with more functional and stylish lifestyle accessories getting added to the mix of products.

Fitness-related accessories such as the Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone Up and Fitbit are expected to lead the industry through 2018 thanks to ease of use and low prices.

Such devices "have succeeded in drawing much-needed interest and attention to a wearables market that has had some difficulty gaining traction," said Ramon Llamas, IDC's research manager of mobile phones. "The increased buzz has prompted more vendors to announce their intentions to enter this market."

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Other segments are also expected to grow. Smart accessories, which include the Pebble smartwatch, Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Sony Smartwatch, enable users to add third-party apps. Smart wearables such as Google Glass, which function with full autonomy, independent of any other device except to connect to the Internet, have gained significant buzz but have some catching up to do in terms of unit sales.

"IDC believes that the runway for smart wearables is long, and it will not be until 2016 that we begin to see millions of units shipping," the firm said. 

When it comes to brands, Samsung has been identified as the most trusted brand for wearables, according to IDC's survey of more than 50,000 consumers in 26 countries.

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