The worldwide wearables market took another step forward in the third quarter of 2017 (3Q17) with total shipment volume reaching 26.3 million units, up 7.3% year over year, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).
But while the overall market showed continued growth, it also showed a growing trend towards smart wearables (devices capable of running third party applications) and away from basic wearables (devices that do not run third party applications).
"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."
"Along with a change in the types of devices being sold, there's also in a change in where the devices are being sold," said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. "Traditional tech outlets still play a huge role in distribution but companies like Fossil and Movado are pushing forth fashion-oriented channels. Meanwhile, Apple's recent introduction of cellular connectivity, and Samsung's longstanding relationship with telcos are also helping provide an uplift to sales and awareness of wearables."
Wearables Company Highlights
|Top 5 Wearable Companies, Shipments, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, 3Q17 (shipment volumes in millions)
||3Q17 Shipment Volumes
||3Q17 Market Share
||3Q16 Shipment Volumes
||3Q16 Market Share
||Year Over Year Change
| 1. Xiaomi*
| 1. Fitbit*
| 3. Apple
| 4. Huawei
| 5. Garmin
| Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker
Fitbit and Xiaomi finished the quarter in a statistical tie for first place, but showed different routes getting there. Fitbit, while showing a notable decrease in shipment volume, debuted its first smartwatch - the Ionic - a decidedly fitness-oriented device that plays to the company's rich fitness heritage. While its early responses and reviews have been encouraging, Fitbit's fitness trackers posted their fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline. Xiaomi posted a slight year-over-year decrease in volume with a diversification beyond fitness bands and watches and adding its own line of smart footwear. But as seen in previous quarters, the majority of Xiaomi's shipments remained within its home country of China.
Apple's results reflect the timing of its product refresh late in the quarter and this was evident in the overall shipment increase as the release of its Watch 3 was enough to buoy volumes and remain ahead of the competition. The introduction of a cellular-connected version should spur interest from would-be purchasers going forward, and its slow and purposeful approach to cellular-enabled capabilities (including voice, data, and streaming music) will give users time to acclimate to a smartphone-free experience.
Huawei posted the largest year-over-year growth among the leading vendors, showing a rededication to fitness bands with several new models (including the Sport Band 2 Pro, B19 and B29) and an introduction to smart earwear with its Sport Pulse Earphones that track heart rate in addition to audio. Like Xiaomi, the majority of Huawei's shipments remained in China.
Garmin, though showing a year-over-year decline, continues its transition from basic wearables to smart wearables, with the two categories nearly balancing each other out. Still, Garmin boasts one of the most diversified product portfolios, with devices addressing multiple sports and lifestyle segments, and offering a smart wearable for nearly each of them.