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Wearables market doubles, but only if you include wireless headphones

The latest global wearable device market numbers from IDC reveal it grew by 95% in Q3, but much of this came from a category that didn’t used to be counted.

The launch by Apple of its AirPod earphones provided a general boost to the Bluetooth headphones market. Wired headphones never used to be included in assessments of the wearables market but, for IDC at least, the removal of those wires had been sufficient for them to qualify. As a result, a category that used to be comprised mainly of fitness bands and smart watches is now dominat3ed by earwear.

“Hearables have become the new go-to product for the wearables market,” said Ramon Llamas of IDC. “This began with multiple vendors removing the headphone jack from their smartphones, driving the move toward wireless headphones. It continued with hearables incorporating additional features that either augment or expand the audio experience. Next, hearables have taken on multiple form factors – ranging from truly wireless to over-the-ear headphones – appealing to a broad base of earwear user preferences. Finally, prices have come down significantly, with some reaching below $20.”

Not with Apple they haven’t. AirPods start at £159, going up to £249 for the Pro version. Nonetheless, Apple being Apple, it’s still shifting a ton of them. IDC reckons Apple tripled its total wearables shipments to 29.5 million units in Q3 and since there’s little evidence of an explosion in Apple Watch sales, much of this must be down to the AirPods. If Apple decides to ditch the lightning port, that trend seems bound to continue.

As you can see from the second table below, earware shipments are by far the biggest wearables category now and are almost entirely responsible for its rapid growth. However it’s highly debatable whether a single function accessory should be counted as a wearable device in its own right. Even fitness bands have some degree of smart functionality and the mere removal of a wires seems like a crude reason so suddenly designate something ‘wearable’, when the human interface has barely changed.

Top 5 Wearables Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q3 2019 (shipments in millions)
Company 3Q19 Shipments 3Q19 Market Share 3Q18 Shipments 3Q18 Market Share Year-Over-Year Growth
1. Apple 29.5 35.0% 10.0 23.0% 195.5%
2. Xiaomi 12.4 14.6% 7.4 17.1% 66.1%
3. Samsung 8.3 9.8% 3.2 7.4% 156.4%
4. Huawei 7.1 8.4% 2.3 5.4% 202.6%
5. Fitbit 3.5 4.1% 3.5 8.0% 0.5%
Others 23.8 28.1% 16.9 39.0% 40.4%
Total 84.5 100.0% 43.4 100.0% 94.6%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearables Tracker, December 5, 2019

 

Worldwide Wearables Market by Product Category Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q3 2019 (shipments in millions)
Product Category 3Q19 Shipments 3Q19 Market Share 3Q18 Shipments 3Q18 Market Share Year-Over-Year Growth
Earwear 40.7 48.1% 11.9 27.4% 242.4%
Wristband 19.2 22.7% 12.9 29.7% 48.6%
Smartwatch 17.6 20.9% 11.9 27.4% 48.0%
Others 7.1 8.4% 6.7 15.5% 4.7%
Total 84.5 100.0% 43.4 100.0% 94.6%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearables Tracker, December 5, 2019

 


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