Global wearable device shipments grew a whopping 89 percent year-on-year (YoY) in 2019. According to the latest data from research firm IDC, a total of 336.5 million wearables were sold last year, up from 178 million units in 2018.
In the fourth quarter alone, 118.9 million wearable devices were shipped globally, marking an 82.3 percent YoY growth. The bulk of this growth comes from the hearables sector, which captured 55.3 percent of the entire wearables market in Q4 2019.
This is indicative of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack slowly disappearing from smartphones and wireless earphones replacing it. "Hearables were the big story due to new product introductions and more smartphones cutting the cord with traditional earphones, practically driving users to purchase a hearable," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director at IDC.
For the entire year, hearables, which IDC defines as the "wearables that hang on or plug into the ear," grew 251 percent from 48.6 million units in 2018 to 170.5 million in 2019.
Wrist-worn devices captured 43.8 percent of the total market in the fourth quarter last year, down from 68.6 percent over the same period a year earlier. However, a steep rise in shipment volume means the category itself grew 16.3 percent during the period.
Smartwatches saw a 22.7 percent YoY growth in shipment in 2019. Shipment volume reached 92.4 million last year, up from 75.3 million in 2018. The wrist band market also grew sharply last year to reach 69.4 million units, up 37.4 percent from 50.5 million units a year earlier.
Apple leads the wearable market, Xiaomi, Samsung, and Huawei compete
Apple continues to lead the wearables market with its hugely popular AirPods and Beats products. The company shipped 43.4 million wearable devices in Q4 2019, capturing 36.5 percent of the entire market. Apple, however, saw a slight 5.2 percent YoY decline in Apple Watch shipments.
Xiaomi, Samsung, and Huawei followed Apple distantly with 10.8 percent, 8.8 percent, and 7.8 percent market share respectively. Samsung saw the biggest growth rate among the top four vendors with 127.6 percent YoY growth in the fourth quarter. Apple's growth rate stood at 119.9 percent, while Xiaomi and Huawei saw YoY growth of 71.1 percent and 63.4 percent respectively.
Samsung also leads the growth rate chart for the entire year of 2019, thanks to strong sales of its Galaxy Buds, Galaxy Watch, and Galaxy Fit devices. A whopping 153.3 percent YoY growth means its shipment volume reached 30.9 million units last year.
However, the South Korean company is still nowhere near Apple. The Cupertino-based manufacturer shipped 106.5 million wearables in 2019. This means nearly one out of every three wearable devices sold worldwide last year was an Apple product.
Xiaomi saw a slight decline in market share last year, but it still sits second by shipping 41.7 million devices. Huawei shipped 27.9 million wearable devices last year to come fourth, closely following Samsung.
Fitbit also had a decent outing last year. The company saw positive growth in shipment volume for the first time in three years. It shipped 15.9 million wearable devices in 2019, capturing 4.7 percent of the entire market.
Back in September 2019, IDC had predicted that hearables would be the new wearables. That prediction turned out to be true. Expect this trend to continue this year as well, as more phone makers ditch the headphone jack on their phones.