The shift in consumer demand from fitness bands to watches and other products allowed Xiaomi and Apple to topple Fitbit’s reign in the wearables market space.
Apple Inc. and Xiaomi Inc. are tied in the top spot of the worldwide wearables market for the first quarter of 2017 (1Q2017) as the market continues to enjoy its upward trajectory. Based on the International Data Corp. (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report, companies shipped a total of 24.7 million wearable devices during 1Q17, up 17.9% from the 20.9 million units shipped in 1Q16, with multiple products experiencing double- and triple-digit growth.
"Fitbit finds itself in the midst of a transformation as user tastes evolve from fitness bands to watches and other products," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for 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 that Xiaomi and Apple have supplanted Fitbit, the next question is whether they will be able to maintain their position."
"However, by no means should Fitbit be removed from the wearables conversation," continued Llamas. "With a user base of 50 million, 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.
"The market is arguably still in the first phase of development, where companies are focused on seeding wearables into the market," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. He added that there is ample opportunity for traditional watch brands as the scale of the consumer electronics market far surpasses their world.
Ubrani sees the second phase of development about putting user data to use. "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," he added.
Xiaomi started 2017 as the co-leader of the worldwide wearables market alongside Apple, having spent several years as the number two or three company. More than 96% of its shipment volume—primarily fitness tracking wristbands—remained within China, and many were shipped as part of smartphone bundles to consumers. The company is branching out from wristwear, having announced its "90 Minutes Ultra Smart Sportswear" shoes powered by Intel's Curie.
Apple saw sustained demand for its Watches nearly two quarters after the Series 1 and Series 2 versions launched to the market, and recorded the second highest year-over-year growth among the leading companies. The Series 1 and 2 have been a welcome change from the higher priced and undifferentiated experience found on the original Apple Watch from a year ago, attracting both first-time users and those seeking to replace their previous Watches.
Having led the wearables market for several years, Fitbit finds itself in third place to start off 2017. Still, the company believes that there is market need for fitness trackers with the launch of its Alta HR and continued popularity of its Charge 2 wristband and Blaze watch. Moreover, its recent 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. Altogether, the diversification of products is several steps ahead of Samsung's smartwatch-only emphasis from a year ago.
Garmin's shift from basic wearables to smart wearables continued in earnest during 1Q17, with total volumes for each nearly equaling each other. Key to this was the addition of Vivo- and Fenix-branded smartwatches that address citizen athletes and outdoors enthusiasts with third party applications beyond health and fitness. The introduction of the Fenix 5 also boded well for the company as the smaller size made the watch accessible to a wider audience.
Figure 1: *Top 5 worldwide wearable device companies, shipments, market share, and year-on-year growth for 1Q2017 (shipments in millions). Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. *