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Step Counting Pushes the Wearables Market Past 22M Units in Q2

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Wearable device vendors shipped 22.5 million units in the second quarter (Q2) of 2016, a 26.1-percent year-over-year jump, according to IDC’s latest analysis of the market.

Buyers are flocking to basic wearables like the fitness trackers popularized by the current market leader, Fitbit. IDC defines basic wearables as a category of devices that don’t support third-party apps. Last quarter, shipments surged 48.8 percent 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,” said IDC research manager Ramon Llamas, in a statement. “Consequently, basic wearables accounted for 82.8 percent of all wearable devices shipped during the quarter, and more vendors continue to enter this space.”


The success of Fitbit’s line of Charge fitness trackers and other health wearables presages a potential glut of me-too devices, warned Llamas. “The danger, however, is that most devices end up being copycats of others, making it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.”

Meanwhile, smart wearables, which can support third-party apps, didn’t fare as well. Shipments dropped 27.2 percent in Q2 compared to the same quarter a year ago. Despite clear interest from buyers, they are “struggling to find their place in the market,” observed Llamas.

“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,” Llamas added.

Fitbit emerged the market leader in Q2 with shipments of 5.7 million units and a 25.4-percen share of the market. China’s Xiaomi, maker of the popular Mi Bands, shipped 3.1 million devices and claimed 14 percent of the market.

Apple shipped 1.6 million Watches – the company’s one and only wearable – and took third place with 7 percent of the market. “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,” noted IDC. The Cupertino, Calif. device maker is expected to announce a follow-up to its smartphone (along with a new iPhone) at a Sept. 7 media briefing.

Garmin and Lifesense round out the top five with shipments of 1.6 million and 1 million, respectively.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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