Smart devices are helping to boost growth of the wearables market

Global shipments of wearables reached 26.3 million units in the third quarter of 2017. This was up 7.3% on the same period in the previous year according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Most of the increase was due to growing interest in smart wearables, i.e. devices capable of running third party applications.

It wasn’t always like this. This time last year fitness trackers were all the rage while some were questioning the future of the smartwatch as a product category. The tide seems to have turned and users are now showing a waning taste for basic wearables. Three months ago, IDC reported that the second quarter of 2017 was the first time quarterly shipments of fitness trackers declined.

“The differing trajectories for both smart and basic wearables underscore the ongoing evolution for the wearables market,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team.

“Basic wearables – with devices coming from Fitbit, Xiaomi, and Huawei – helped establish the wearables market. But as tastes and demands have changed towards multi-purpose devices – like smartwatches from Apple, Fossil, and Samsung – vendors find themselves at a crossroads to adjust accordingly to capture growth opportunity and mindshare.”

The trend was also evident in the breakdown by vendor.

Xiaomi and Fitbit were tied in first place with 3.6 million Q3-2017 shipments, or 13.7% of the market. This was a far cry from Fitbit’s dominant 21.9% share in Q3-2016. The San Francisco manufacturer is hoping the release of its first smartwatch, the Ionic, will help boost its fortunes in the final quarter of 2017. Xiaomi posted only a slight year-on-year decrease in shipments, but the majority of its business remains within its home country of China.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Apple, on the other hand, has seen healthy growth. This was only partially a result of the release of its fourth generation smartwatch, as the device made its debut in September. The real test for Apple will be final quarter holiday period sales.

Huawei and Garmin rounded off the top 5, each with around 5% of the market. Huawei posted the largest year-over-year growth among the leading vendors, albeit from a much lower base. Garmin shipment volumes are pretty much unchanged from last year, as the company continues its transition from basic wearables to smart wearables.

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