According to IDC, the top wearable device maker by volume is Xiaomi. Its shipment volume of 3.6 million units in Q1, 2017 was primarily fitness tracking wristbands.
Apple was number two with its Apple Watch Series 2 showing a 64.1% year-on-year (YoY) increase in shipments to nearly 3.6 million. Apple sold in more mature, higher socio-economic markets. Samsung also did well with its Gear Fit 2 and Gear 3 selling 1.4 million units – up 90.8% YoY.
Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team, said, “The wearables market is entering a new phase. Since the market’s inception, it has been a matter of getting product out there to generate awareness and interest. Now it is about getting the experience right – from the way the hardware looks and feels to how software collects, analyses, and presents insightful data.”
The main issues with smartwatches have been the need to frequently charge them, the need to be tethered to the smartphone for most functionality, and the cost – there simply was not a compelling reason to buy one over a normal watch.
Smartwatches, however, will see a boost in volumes in 2019 as cellular connectivity becomes more prevalent on the market and costs come down.
IDC said watches would account for most of the wearable devices shipped until 2021. "However basic watches (devices that do not run third party applications, including hybrid watches, fitness/GPS watches, and most kid watches) will continue out-shipping smart watches (devices capable of running third party applications, like Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, and all Android Wear devices), as numerous traditional watch makers shift more resources to building hybrid watches, creating a greater TAM (Technology Acceptance Model)."
As to wristbands, they would see slowing growth in the years ahead, IDC said. The sudden softness in the wristband market witnessed at the end of 2016 will carry into subsequent quarters and year, but the market will be propped up with low-cost devices with good enough features for the mass market. In addition, users will transition to watches for additional utility and multi-purpose use.
Earwear includes devices that bring additional functionality, and sends information back and forth to a smartphone application.
IDC said the smart clothing market took a strong step forward, thanks to Chinese vendors providing shirts, belts, shoes, socks, and other connected apparel. "While consumers have yet to fully embrace connected clothing, professional athletes and organisations have warmed to their usage to improve player performance," the company said. The upcoming release of Google and Levi’s Project Jacquared-enabled jacket may change that this year.
"We include lesser-known products like clip-on devices, non-AR/VR eyewear, and others in the 'others' category. While we do not expect an immense amount of growth in this segment, it will nonetheless bear watching as numerous vendors cater to niche audiences with creative new devices and uses," IDC said.