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Apple and Xiaomi lead growth in wearables market

Apple and Xiaomi are co-leaders of the worldwide wearables market with strong growth during this year’s first quarter.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, companies shipped a total of 24.7 million wearable devices during the quarter, up 17.9 per cent from the 20.9 million units shipped in the same period last year.

“Fitbit finds itself in the midst of a transformation as user tastes evolve from fitness bands to watches and other products,” says research manager Ramon Llamas of IDC’s wearables team. “This allowed Xiaomi to throttle up on its inexpensive devices within the China market and for Apple to leverage its position as the leading smartwatch provider worldwide.

“Now Xiaomi and Apple have supplanted Fitbit, the next question is whether they will be able to maintain their position.

However, says Llamas, third-placed Fitbit is by no means removed from the wearables conversation. “With a user base of 50 million people, a strong presence within corporate wellness, and assets that keep it top of mind for digital health, Fitbit is well positioned to move into new segments and markets.”

First phase

ICD mobile device trackers senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani says the market is arguably still in the first phase of development. “It’s all about getting people accustomed to the idea of wearing a device, and the opportunity remains very enticing for traditional and fashion watch brands as the scale of the consumer electronics market far surpasses their world.

“The second phase of development will be all about putting user data to good use,” Ubrani says. “This is when step counts translate into healthier hearts and minds. And it’s also when we will start to see devices that actually augment our abilities and make our lives easier or more productive rather than just being another screen we keep an eye on.”

Meanwhile, Xiaomi is branching out from wristwear, having announced its 90 Minutes Ultra-Smart Sportswear shoes powered by Intel’s Curie.

Apple has had its second-highest year-over-year growth among the leading wearables companies as its Series 1 and 2 watches have been a welcome change from the higher-priced and undifferentiated experience found on the original Apple Watch from a year ago.

Fitbit believes there is still a market need for fitness trackers with the launch of its Alta HR. Moreover, its acquisitions of Coin, Pebble and Vector are expected to translate into the company’s first smartwatch.

Samsung led all companies in year-over-year growth, nearly doubling its wearables volumes from a year ago. Driving volumes higher were its Gear S3 Frontier and Classic smartwatches, which in many markets had their first full quarter of availability, as well as its IconX headphones and Gear Fit 2 fitness band. 

Garmin’s shift from basic wearables to smart wearables has continued in earnest, says IDC, with total volumes for each nearly equal. Key to this was the addition of Fenix- and Vivo-branded smartwatches with third-party applications beyond health and fitness.

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