While the smart wearables market has not yet caught up with the smartphone market for sheer volumes, the segment has been showing encouraging signs for the past several quarters. According to research firm IDC’s latest report, device makers shipped a total of 11.4 million wearables in Q1, 2015, which is a massive growth of 200% over Q1, 2014, when only 3.8 million devices were shipped. The top five vendors by volume were Fitbit, Xiaomi, Garmin, Samsung and Jawbone. It is worth remembering that this was the last full quarter before the release of Apple’s smartwatch, which reportedly had a strong start immediately after going on sale.
In the report released on Wednesday, IDC research manager Mr. Ramon Llamas said, “Bucking the post-holiday decline normally associated with the first quarter is a strong sign for the wearables market”. He also expressed optimism that demand for smart wearables from emerging markets is about to hit the inflexion point, and stated that the growth in demand has established growing acceptance of the segment from mainstream retail consumers, and demonstrated the abilities of tech companies to deliver convincing products and compelling experiences. Mr. Llamas also believes that the arrival of Apple in the second quarter will see increased competition at the higher end, but will also provide some much-needed spark to the segment. However, he was cautious about how customers might react to high-priced devices, now that 40% of the wearables sold were priced at or under the $100 mark.
Fitbit continues to remain the undisputed market leader in the segment worldwide, and the introduction of three new products to its range, along with increased sales of its older generation devices has meant that the company continues to lead the market. Xiaomi, the number two player in the market has primarily been restricted to China thus far, but in recent months, has moved beyond its home base and has introduced the Mi Band to international markets as diverse as India and Indonesia, the US and Europe. Garmin meanwhile makes GPS-embedded wearables, most of which are geared towards health, fitness, outdoor activities and sports. Samsung is the only major electronics company in the top-five list, and its fourth place is courtesy of Tizen-powered Gear smartwatches, and Android-Wear powered Gear Live. Jawbone continues to see strong sales for its newly released UP MOVE and last year’s UP24. Crowd-funded smartwatch maker Pebble and Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony narrowly missed out on making it to the top five.