It's no secret that the wearable device industry nowadays is growing at a pace rivaled only by the global smartphone market a number of years ago, but even if you've been keeping a close eye on the recent surge of worldwide sales of smartwatches, activity trackers, and so-called "hearables"
, odds are you'll find the latest quarterly report released by the International Data Corporation
at least a little surprising if not outright astounding.
That's because the IDC tracked a grand total of 84.5 million wearable shipments during 2019's third calendar quarter, representing an absolutely mind-blowing increase of 94.6 percent compared to the Q3 2018 tally. In other words, the market almost doubled in the space of just one year, and since fitness bands and smartwatches were already pretty popular, you won't be shocked to hear this growth was mainly driven by the rapid rise of wireless headphones with integrated voice assistance.
Apple vs. everyone else
The hearables or earwear product category alone accounted for a whopping 48.1 percent of the entire market in Q3 2019, up from only 27.4 percent in the same timeframe last year. That means wireless headphones (including both truly wireless earbuds and over-the-ear models) are now more popular than smartwatches and wristbands combined. The latter two segments are growing at a decent tempo as well, mind you, but they simply can't keep up with the likes of Apple's AirPods
and Samsung's Galaxy Buds
Speaking of brands, it's obviously not surprising to see Apple consolidate and even extend its lead over silver and bronze medalists Xiaomi and Samsung respectively with 195.5 percent (!!!) year-on-year growth in shipments and a market share expanded from 23 to no less than 35 percent. The 29.5 million unit total of the Cupertino-based tech giant includes everything from new and old Apple Watch variants to first and second-gen AirPods
, as well as Beats-branded wireless headphones
with built-in Siri assistance.
The rest of the pack is also doing well (minus Fitbit)
In second place, Xiaomi continued to sell ultra-low-cost Mi Bands
like hotcakes across regions like Europe, Middle East, and Africa in addition to China, while Samsung jumped from 3.2 to 8.3 million unit shipments thanks primarily to special Galaxy Buds bundle deals
Huawei also had an exceptionally good quarter, relying on the patriotism of its domestic customers to offset all the damage done to its Western brand image, whereas Fitbit was by far the weakest performer of the top five global vendors, with stagnating sales numbers and a market share that shrank from 8 to 4.1 percent. Worse still, the IDC believes its prospective acquisition by Google
fills "the brand's future with uncertainty" rather than positioning the company for the rapid growth anticipated by the search giant.
Oh, well, maybe Big G will eventually release that mythical Pixel Watch
with Fitbit's help, becoming a major player in a thriving industry so comfortably dominated by a different tech titan with a clear purpose
, a (mostly) coherent strategy, and a consumer-oriented vision. Speaking of Apple's dominance, it's interesting to highlight that market analysts expect sales figures to continue to thrive in the short term thanks to the freshly launched AirPods Pro
and ancient Series 3 Watch
That doesn't necessarily mean the Apple Watch Series 5
is a flop, though, but simply that more and more "iFans" are relishing the opportunity to buy the company's products at reasonable prices and big discounts... for a change. That might also be part of the reason why so many affordable smartwatch vendors, Fitbit included, continue to struggle to make a global impact in the wearable device market.