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Apple and Android Lead Smartwatch Boom, But Dumber Wearables Slip

September 1, 2017, 9:12 AM UTC

It’s safe to say now that wearable technology is a thing. According to the latest quarterly figures from the analyst house IDC, the worldwide wearables market grew by 10.3% between the second quarters of 2016 and 2017.

What’s particularly noteworthy is that it’s smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch and the many devices using Google’s Android Wear, that are responsible for the growth, boasting a 60.9% boost. Shipments of more basic wearables, such as fitness trackers that don’t run third-party apps, declined by 0.9%—their first drop.

In IDC’s rankings, China’s Xiaomi took the number one spot with Q2 shipments of 3.5 million units, up 13.7% from the 3.1 million units it shipped a year before. But Apple, in second place, showed a 49.7% jump, from 2.3 million to 3.4 million units.

Fitbit in particular demonstrated the fall from grace of less “smart” wearables—topping the rankings last year, it’s still in the top three, but shipments fell 40.9% from 5.7 million units to 3.4 million units. Garmin, in fourth place, suffered a drop of 6.6%.

However, Fossil—the only “traditional” watch maker in the top five—enjoyed a massive 217.9% rise in wearable technology shipments, from 300,000 units to 1 million units. Fossil said earlier this week that it had doubled its wearables revenues over the last year, and would be significantly increasing its range of Android Wear-powered smartwatches in 2018.

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“The transition towards more intelligent and feature-filled wearables is in full swing,” IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in a statement. “For years, rudimentary fitness trackers have acted as a gateway to smartwatches and now we’re at a point where brands and consumers are graduating to a more sophisticated device.”

This may very well be the case, though it doesn’t mean lots of people are adopting such devices for the first time. A Kantar Worldpanel ComTech survey earlier this week showed that less than 5% of those who have not yet bought a wearable device were interested in doing so anytime soon.

Ubrani suggested that both Apple and Fitbit could maintain their positions by capitalizing on the health-tracking capabilities of their wearable products, as “there is growing interest from the medical industry to adopt wearables and consumer expectations are also on the rise.”

So what’s next? According to IDC’s analysts, smart clothing—such as the sensor-laden clothes worn by pro atheletes—and earwear showed triple-digit growth over the last year, so while such products may be rare now, they may be gaining traction.