The wearable device market recorded its eighth consecutive quarter of steady growth in the first quarter of the year, with vendors shipping a total of 11.4 million wearables in the period, a 200 percent increase from the 3.8 million wearables shipped in the same period last year.
The report from IDC does not include sales following the launch of Apple’s hotly anticipated smartwatch, the Apple Watch. Ramon Llamas, IDC’s research manager for wearables, told eWEEK the strong market figures ahead of the device’s launch suggest there’s still plenty of space to compete in the wearables market.
"Keep in mind that not everyone has an iPhone, and not everyone with an iPhone will want one," he said. "At the same time, there will be plenty of vendors who will feel the pinch. The key is to provide differentiated experiences and less expensive devices."
Health and fitness tracking company Fitbit started 2015 as the clear market leader in the worldwide wearables market with 34.2 percent market share, according to the report. The company’s first quarter shipments were driven by the release of three new devices--the Charge, Charge HR, and the Surge--alongside continued demand for its older Flex wristband and One and Zip clip-on models.
"Health and fitness is the popular one feature in the market right now," Llamas explained. "While descriptive data is helpful--steps taken, calories burned--I’d like to see more predictive data, like what you can do next to improve your health. So far, Jawbone, Basis, and Microsoft have done a good job of that."
He noted the market is still in its early days, so there will be a diverse consumer market in the near future, but consolidation will follow later, as some companies become ideal acquisition targets.
Second-place Xiaomi started off the year by smashing through the 1million-unit mark with its Mi Band for the first time, and capturing nearly 25 percent market share, while Garmin’s selection of health and fitness devices, the majority of which are GPS-enabled, landed the company in third place with just over 6 percent market share.
Samsung’s fourth place finish (5.3 percent market share) came courtesy of worldwide demand for its Gear smartwatches, though the company’s current market potential is limited due to Gear’s devices being limited to connection with select high-end Samsung smartphones.
Rounding out the top five was Jawbone with 4.4 percent of the market—the company beat out Pebble and Sony thanks to the UP MOVE release and continued demand for its almost year-old UP24 wearable.
"I think the [market] pressure is more on watches. Watches have fallen out of utility and fashion for many, and there’s still the problem of getting enough of the right apps for your smartwatch," Llamas said. "Plus, your smartwatch competes with your phone. My take is that the fitness bands will have staying power for a while."