Apple finds itself within striking distance of the established market leader, Fitbit, in its first appearance in the wearables market, according to a report from IT research firm IDC.
Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units of its smartwatch, called Apple Watch, in the second quarter of 2015, just 0.8 million units behind Fitbit's 4.4 million units.
Total shipment volume for the quarter came to 18.1 million units, up 223.2 percent from the 5.6 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2014.
"On a scale from 1 to 10, Apple’s participation is an 11. Without a doubt, Apple brings so much to the wearables industry for reasons mentioned in the report," Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables and mobile phones at IDC, told eWEEK. "In a way, Apple is one of the silver bullets for the success of the overall market. Now that Apple is in the wearables market, as an analyst, I want to see it thrive by developing the product and the service. That will entice more customers, raise the bar for the competition, and get the attention of end-users."
The report noted a divide has formed between smart wearables and basic wearables--devices that do not run third-party applications, and includes most fitness trackers.
Price and functionality are the main differences between the two categories, and that gap is expected to widen over time, with the challenge for basic wearables manufacturers trying to compete with the additional features offered by smart wearables while still turning a profit in the price sensitive basic wearables market.
"Not everyone wants, nor can afford, a full-fledged and highly featured smart watch," Llamas said. "Many are interested in single-purpose and less expensive solutions that companies like Fitbit can fulfill. I think the Fitbit and Apple can peacefully coexist in the market. Where they cannot is on the same person’s wrist."
Fitbit continues to be the leader in the wearables market with nearly 25 percent market share, followed by Apple with just under 20 percent, then Xiaomi with 17 percent.
Garmin's laser-like focus on fitness devices for "citizen athletes" like runners, cyclists, and swimmers helped push it into fourth place with about 4 percent market share, while Samsung narrowly edged out Huawei and Jawbone to remain among the top 5 vendors during the quarter.
When it comes to the next major advancements in the wearables market, Llamas said he thinks sensors are the low-hanging fruit.
"Expect more health- related applications like tracking your temperature, environmental conditions, perhaps even blood pressure--Apple was working on that, but had to cancel it because it was not ready for prime time--and glucose monitoring," Llamas said. "Remember those diabetes tracking contact lenses from Google?"