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The wearable device market keeps making big gains as competitive pressures mount, according to International Data Corporation's (IDC) latest research.
Device makers shipped 19.7 million smartwatches, fitness trackers and other wearables in the first quarter (Q1) of 2016, a 67.2-percent jump from the same quarter a year ago. For comparison's sake, wearables makers shipped 11.8 million devices in Q1 2015.
Vendors were beset by major developments that shook up the market, including after-holiday price drops, new announcements at tradeshows like CES and big shakeup in the top five company rankings. The research firm also noted that several startups shed workers or called it quits.
Despite these developments, the wearables market continues to steam ahead, said IDC research manager Ramon Llamas.
"The wearables that we see today are several steps ahead of what we saw when this market began, increasingly taking their cues from form, function, and fashion," he said in prepared remarks. "That keeps them relevant. The downside is that it is becoming a crowded market, and not everyone is guaranteed success."
Fitbit remains the market leader, with nearly 25 percent of the market and shipments of 4.8 million fitness and health trackers in Q1. The successful launch of the company's new Alta and Blaze wearables saw a million units of each flood into the market.
China's Xiaomi bumped Apple from second place – Apple shipped 4.1 million smartwatches in Q4 2015 landing it in second place at the time -- after having shipped 3.7 million low-cost fitness trackers and a children's watch that parents can use to track their kids.
Apple came in third with shipments of 1.5 million Watches and Garmin took fourth place with shipments of 900,000 sports wearables. Samsung and BBK, another Chinese maker of watches for children with tracking capabilities, tied for fifth place after each shipped an estimated 700,000 units.
While conventional wisdom states that app-enabled smartwatches may someday spell the end of basic wearables, fitness trackers and other dedicated devices are here to stay, according to IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani.
"It's shortsighted to think that basic wearables and smart watches are in competition with each other. Right now, we see both as essential to expand the overall market," Ubrani said in a statement. "The unique feature sets combined with substantial differences in price and performance sets each category apart, and leaves plenty of room for both to grow over the next few years."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.