Global wearables market growth slows dramatically as consumers seek smarter devices
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), global shipments of wearables grew 1.2% in Q1 2018 – snail’s pace progress when compared to the 18% growth reported this time last year –, as consumer preference shifts toward smarter devices and products diversify.
The deceleration was driven by a decline of 9.2% in shipments of basic wearables over the period, while shipments of higher priced smart wearables actually increased 28.4% in the quarter, suggesting that consumers are increasingly interested in the expanded capabilities of more technologically advanced products.
Furthermore, while watches and wristbands accounted for 95% of all shipments in Q1 2018, other products are rapidly growing in popularity. Shipments of sensor-laden clothing, for example, grew 58.6% compared to Q1 2017. The vast majority of these products are step-counting shoes but companies are offering increasingly diversified sensor-enabled apparel pieces, such as shirts and shorts, primarily with fitness tracking functionalities.
Health-related capabilities are still the focus of many wearables, and technological advances are allowing companies to integrate ever more personalized and precise tools into their products.
“Additional sensors, years of underlying data, and improved algorithms are allowing pillars of the industry like Fitbit and Apple to help identify diseases and other health irregularities,” explained Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, in a release. “Meanwhile, roughly one third of all wearables included cellular connectivity this quarter, which has allowed new use-cases to emerge.”
Indeed, even as fitness continues to dominate the wearables sector, a whole range of other applications are already being explored. “While health and fitness remain the key value proposition behind many of these devices, a closer look reveals hearables that feature coaching, audio modification, and language translation, other wrist-worn devices focusing on personal safety, and connected watches for children,” pointed out Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's wearables team.
Since IDC’s last report in March, there have been no major changes among the sector’s biggest players. Having established itself as the market leader in the fourth quarter of 2017, American technology multinational Apple Inc. took the top spot on the leader board again in Q1 2018, and now has a market share of 16.1%, compared to 14.3% in the prior year period.
The company’s watch shipments increased 13.5% during the period, thanks in large part to the introduction of its devices with mobile connectivity into new markets.
Having slipped into third place in the fourth quarter of 2017, Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi Inc. came in second this time around, accounting for a 14.8% share of unit shipments. Nonetheless, its products have the lowest average selling price among its top five peers, and the company only captured 1.8% of the dollar value of the market during the period.
Health-focused San Francisco-based Fitbit fell into third place, a still more than respectable ranking considering that the company’s market share declined 28.1% year-over-year and now rests at 8.7%. New products and initiatives introduced by the company over the course of the quarter, such as the Versa smart watch and women’s health tracking on its online platform, have been received well and Fitibit continues to negotiate partnerships with government agencies and health organizations in an attempt to establish itself as a fitness-centered brand.
China’s Huawei (5.2% market share) and America’s Garmin (5%) rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Further information concerning the movements of the wearable devices market in Q1 2018 can be found on IDC’s website.
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