Apple continues to dominate worldwide wearables market

Apple continues to dominate the worldwide wearables market as shipments of wearable devices reached 153.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 (4Q20), a year-over-year increase of 27.2% according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Shipments for the full year grew 28.4% to 444.7 million units. While the holiday quarter was largely driven by new devices and lower prices, the broader trend for 2020 was the surge in consumer spending for electronics as disposable income was reallocated from leisure activities during the pandemic.

“While the shift in spending along with new products and typical seasonality were at play during the fourth quarter, the pandemic has also been good for the market as it has put health and fitness at the forefront of many consumers’ minds,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “In-home fitness programs are quickly becoming a crucial component of the wearables offering for many companies. Beyond that, the proliferation of health sensors such as skin temperature, ECG, and heart rate tracking are allowing users and health professionals to better understand the onset and tracking of diseases.”

However, growth has not been even across the wearables market as some companies and products were affected by the global semiconductor shortage. Most notably, wristbands declined 17.8% during the quarter and accounted for just 11.5% of all wearable devices shipped. Hearables* were the largest category of devices with 64.2% share of shipments, followed by watches with 24.1% share.

“2020 was the year that hearables became the must-have device,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables Team, in a statement. “Hearables provided a new degree of privacy, particularly during home quarantine but also while out in public. Meeting that demand was a long list of vendors with an equally long list of devices, spanning the range of feature sets and price points. Underpinning the hearables market was a constantly shifting competitive landscape, with companies slowly gaining a foothold in the market (Amazon and its Echo Buds and Frames), vendors introducing new form factors (Apple and AirPods Max), and new features making their way down the price curve, including automatic noise cancelling and voice assistant capability.”

4Q20 Company Highlights

Apple led the market once again with 36.2% share of 4Q20 shipments. Apple Watch shipments rose 45.6% thanks to the appeal of three models with different price points (Series 6, Watch SE, Series 3). Hearables shipments also surged during the quarter although year-over-year growth slowed to 22%, down from 28% and 29% in the previous two quarters. The slowing growth reflect the huge amount of adoption that the market has seen in recent quarters.

Xiaomi ended the quarter in the second position, growing 5% year over year. However, the company’s shipments of its popular Mi Band lineup declined 18.3% during the supply-challenged quarter. Driving overall growth was the expansion of the hearables line, which grew 55.5% since last year and is largely focused on China and the rest of Asia/Pacific. Looking ahead, the company is well positioned to gain from Huawei’s declines as well as grow in EMEA thanks to its push in the smartphone industry.

Samsung held the third position with growth coming from its hearables business as the company shipped 8.8 million units across its various brands. Samsung’s low-cost wristbands also saw greater traction and were able to compete with the Chinese vendors in a few markets although overall volume for these devices was relatively low at 1.3 million units. Overall watch shipments declined to 2.9 million in 4Q20.

Huawei fell to fourth place in 4Q20 and continued to struggle with the sanctions imposed by the U.S. government. While its shipments within China grew 9.4% year over year, shipments declined in previously strong markets such as Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan and China), the Middle East and Africa, and Western Europe. The company has slowly started to move away from wristbands and towards watches as exhibited by the 18.2% growth in watch shipments and the 33.7% decline in wristbands. Watches also command a higher average selling price (ASP) and enabled the company to get closer to developers with its homegrown HarmonyOS, which is expected to tie in with smartwatches in the future.

BoAt rounded out the top five with 5.4 million units shipped in 4Q20. However, the company is solely operating in India and almost exclusively focuses on the hearables segment. As such, global expansion may prove challenging as the global wearables market remains dominated by multinational brands.

Top 5 Wearable Device Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q4 2020 (shipments in millions)

Top 5 Wearable Device Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q4 202. Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, March 2021
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, March 2021

Top 5 Wearable Device Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, 2020 (shipments in millions)

Top 5 Wearable Device Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, 2020. Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, March 2021
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, March 2021

MacDailyNews Take: For an earworn device to be considered a hearable by IDC’s definition, it must offer functionality beyond audio, like a smart assistant, health and fitness tracking, or audio experience enhancement. Also, Apple’s domination of the wearables market is even more impressive given that the company only produces higher end products, not low cost fitness bands and cheapo earbuds.

1 Comment

  1. I still (occasionally) use Apple’s first “wearable” product. My tiny clip-on iPod shuffle. It’s very convenient. Apple still supports syncing it with songs (function is now in Finder instead of iTunes).

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