Fitness tracker users are older & richer, early smartwatch adopters mostly young men, survey finds

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With a glut of fitness trackers and smartwatches being introduced this week at CES ahead of the launch of the Apple Watch, a new survey finds that current wearable devices attract very different types of users based on their primary functionality.

New data from the NPD Connected Intelligence Consumers and Wearables Report reveals that one in ten U.S. adults now owns a fitness tracker. In contrast, smartwatches are not yet as mainstream, with just two percent market penetration.

Fitness trackers from companies like Fitbit and Jawbone are not only more popular, but they attract a very different segment of the population: Owners of fitness-focused wearables tend to be older and more affluent than those who wear smartwatches.

NPD found that 36 percent of fitness tracker owners in the U.S. are between the ages of 35 and 54, while more than half —  54 percent —  are women.

In contrast, 69 percent of those who own smartwatches —  devices like Pebble or watches running Android Wear — are between the ages of 18 and 34. Smartwatch users are also overwhelmingly male, representing 71 percent of owners in the U.S.

As for average income, 41 percent of those owning a fitness tracker brought in more than $100,000 per year. But 48 percent of smartwatch owners earn less than $45,000 per year.

"There is no 'average' consumer for the wearables market; the fitness tracker and smartwatch target consumer are fundamentally different," said Wes Henderek, director NPD Connected Intelligence. "While we expect smartwatch ownership to grow more rapidly over the next year, there will remain a clear place for the fitness tracker due to its size, battery life, and focus on one specific use case - as opposed to the smartwatch which is trying to be a little bit of everything for everyone."

The data comes as Apple is poised to present its own entrance into the wearables market with a wrist-worn device that aims to be both a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. The NPD research was also published during CES, the annual electronics trade show, where this year a wide range of wearable devices have been introduced.

For the survey, NPD polled 5,000 U.S. consumers age 18 and older in December 2014.


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