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People snapped up basic wearables in the third quarter (Q3) of 2016, enough to offset a decline in smartwatch shipments.
IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker shows that the wearable devices market grew 3.1 percent in Q3 on a year-over-year basis. In total, vendors shipped 23 million wearables worldwide last quarter.
Most those were basic wearables (85 percent) like fitness trackers. And despite increased competition Apple Watch and other smartwatches, they're on track to lead the market over the near term, said IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani.
"Where smartwatches were once expected to take the lead, basic wearables now reign supreme. Simplicity is a driving factor and this is well reflected in the top vendor list as four out of five offer a simple, dedicated fitness device," remarked Ubrani in a statement. "Meanwhile, from a design perspective, many devices are focusing on fashion first while allowing the technology to blend in with the background."
Don't count smartwatches out, cautioned IDC research manager Ramon Llamas. He said there was an "opportunity for smart wearables with multi-functionality and third-party applications, both for consumers and business users" as tastes, and therefore needs, change, he said in a statement.
"To get there, we need to see more intuitive user interfaces, seamless user experiences, standalone connectivity, and applications that go beyond health and fitness and into personal and professional productivity," continued Llamas.
Fitbit continues to lead the pack with shipments of 5.3 million wearables in the last quarter, an 11 year-over-year increase, and a 23-percent share of the market. Xiaomi shipped 3.8 million wearables in Q3 and captured 16.5 percent of the market. Garmin took third place with 1.3 million units shipped and a 5.7-percent slice of the pie.
Fourth-place Apple shipped just 1.1 million Watches in Q3, a 71-percent decline compared to last year. IDC attributed the slump, at least in part, to the company's decision to release the second-generation Watch in mid-September. "However, the primary reasons for the downturn were an aging lineup and an unintuitive user interface. Though both issues have been addressed with the latest generation watches, Apple's success will likely be muted as the smartwatch category continues to be challenged," stated IDC.
Samsung took fifth place, on shipments of 1 million units. May customers were able to keep their bundled Fit 2 or Icon X after the Note 7 recall, artificially inflating Samsung's numbers. Nonetheless, the South Korean electronics saw strength in its cellular-enabled version of the Gear S2 smartwatch, observed the analyst group.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.