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Fitbit’s dominance in wearables market remains unchallenged, Apple suffers decline

07 Sep 16

The overall market for wearables has enjoyed significant growth, despite a decline in shipments for Apple, one of the largest vendors in the market. Meanwhile, Fitbit’s dominance over the global market remains unchallenged, as the company’s name becomes synonymous with fitness bands.

According to new research from IDC, shipments of wearable devices reached 22.5 million in the second quarter of 2016. The overall market grew 26.1% year over year, as new use cases slowly start to emerge.

"Fitness is the low-hanging fruit for wearables," says Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.

"However, the market is evolving and we're starting to see consumers adopt new functionality, such as communication and mobile payments, while enterprises warm to wearables' productivity potential,” he says.

According to Ramon Llamas, research manager, Wearables, while the overall wearables market grew during 2Q16, its two categories travelled at different speeds and directions.

Basic wearables (devices that do not support third party applications) grew 48.8% from 2Q15 levels while smart wearables (devices that support third party applications) declined 27.2% year over year.

"Basic wearables, which include most fitness trackers, have benefited from a combination of factors: a clear value proposition for end-users, an abundant selection of devices from multiple vendors, and affordable price points," Llamas explains.

"Consequently, basic wearables accounted for 82.8% of all wearable devices shipped during the quarter, and more vendors continue to enter this space,” he says.

“The danger, however, is that most devices end up being copycats of others, making it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves in a crowded market,” Llamas adds.

Llamas says smart wearables, meanwhile, are still struggling to find their place in the market.

"There is plenty of curiosity about what smart wearables – particularly smartwatches – can do, but they have yet to convince users that they are a must-have item,” he says.

“The good news is that smart wearables are still in their initial stages and vendors are slowly making strides to improve them. But this also means that it will be a slow transition from basic wearables to smart wearables."

Vendor Highlights:

Fitbit's dominance remains unchallenged for now as the company's name is synonymous with fitness bands. The latest Charge 2 and Flex 2 are indicative that the company is growing up, giving form and function equal importance. Fitbit's recent accquistition in the mobile payments arena should also help ensure success in the longer term.

Xiaomi Mi Bands remain extremely popular in China. In every technology market, Xiaomi has focused on the value conscious consumers, and that trend continues. The recent launch of the Mi Band 2 includes heart rate tracking and still maintains a price below $20 USD. The challenge for Xiaomi, however, is growing beyond China's borders and onto the global stage.

Apple was the only vendor among the market leaders to post a year-over-year decrease in shipment volumes, primarily because it did not launch a new model on the anniversary of its first generation Watch. 2Q16 was the first full quarter of Apple's reduced price strategy on the Sport model, which slightly helped the company rebound from its post-holiday slump.

Garmin's vertical integration and constant expansion of the ConnectIQ app store have allowed the company to slowly expand its channel presence and gain consumer mindshare. While it remains focused on fitness enthusiasts and athletes, the latest design of the Fenix Chronos will certainly help broaden its appeal to the masses.

This is the first time Lifesense has broken into the top five on the strength of by its low-cost Mambo fitness trackers shipping into China. It also connects with WeChat, an immensely popular messaging service in China, to share data with others without having to log into a separate application. 

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