We periodically write about market research reports from reputable firms that track wearables. We cover reports from IDC, Gartner, and IDTechEx, among others. These reports typically include data from the previous quarter, half, or full year with the research firm’s predictions for market activity over the coming 5 to 7 years. IDTechEx recently published an entirely different type of report, looking backward 10 years. IDTechEx compared their earlier predictions with what actually happened in the wearable tech world in a report titled “Lessons from a Decade in Wearables.”

The IDTechEx retrospective article begins by stating that market forecasts look ahead from a specific time, using assumptions based on past and current data. These data-backed assumptions can change over time, but the best predictions stick to a given sector’s s major theme and core story. IDTechEx proceeds to share major lessons the company learned about the wearables industry and market predictions.

In its self-evaluation of market prediction accuracy in the previous decade, IDTechEx found that its overall forecast of significant wearables growth held true, as did the messaging about wearables’ benefits and potentials. However, IDTechEx found significant differences in 5-year predictions within key wearable sectors. To list two examples, IDTechEx predicted that smartphone prices would drop and that other wearable devices would become less dependent on smartphones. Neither prediction played out. IDTechEx also stated that their largest miss was in hearables. The company’s original predictions focused on the first hearable startups. The predictions fell out the window following Apple’s AirPods launch in 2016. Today, TWS (true wireless stereo) hearable devices account for the largest portion of the market sector.

In 2016, IDTechEx also made what it considered conservative predictions for VR and AR growth. IDTechEx based its xR predictions on that sector finding its “inflection point”: what we called “the killer app” during the early PC industry days. Well, the AR and VR haven’t gone away, but they’ve yet to come up with a “killer app” that will drive massive sales.

Continuing its look to the past, IDTechEx enumerates four lessons learned that are necessary for accurate wearables market predictions. Those lessons start with understanding the “power of the largest players” in shaping the market; let’s call this one, “What will Apple do?” Second, don’t underestimate the smartphone’s staying power. Third, don’t assume all sectors in the wearable space play the same; each will have different core technologies, infrastructures, fundamentals, and trajectories.

The fourth and final lesson (from IDTechEx’s current self-analysis, anyway) is the toughest; Know what you don’t know. The greatest mistakes come from predictions based on incorrect or incomplete assumptions.

IDTechEx concludes the article with some general thoughts about the future of wearables. We encourage you to read the short article. Our greatest takeaway from IDTechEx’s honest look at themselves is to give them props for being brave enough to compare what happened to their forecasts with what really occurred and to share their learning process to make stronger predictions in the future.

For a peek at IDTechEx’s most recent market report, see Wearable Technology Forecasts 2021-2031.