A total of 2.7 million wearable bands shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2014, with Fitbit maintaining its leadership position with nearly 50 percent market share.
Jawbone, another basic band competitor, also grew rapidly as it expanded its international distribution after the initial launch of the UP24 in the fourth quarter.
Canalys’ quarterly estimates showed that total smart band shipments fell short of half-a-million units, largely because Samsung’s shipments were down dramatically quarter-over-quarter as it had strong sell-in for the fourth quarter and then cleared inventory in preparation for its Gear product refresh in the early second quarter.
Nike’s share of basic band shipments dropped to 10 percent, a disappointing figure considering the company’s brand reach and marketing power.
Meanwhile, Pebble Technology launched the Pebble Steel and the Pebble application store and grew at a healthy rate during the first quarter, managing to achieve smart band market leadership for the quarter with a 35 percent share of worldwide shipments, ahead of both Sony and Samsung.
“The [Nike] FuelBand has frankly been outmatched on sales,” Canalys analyst Daniel Matte said in a statement. “Its competitors’ speed, international reach, broader channel distribution, integration with other fitness communities, superior Websites and multi-platform support have proven to be major advantages.”
Canalys defines bands as wearables designed to be wrapped around the body. Basic wearables are devices serving a specific set of purposes that act as accessories to smart devices, are designed to be worn on the body and not carried, and cannot run third-party computing applications.
“Some industry observers are wondering if the wearables market is a failure, but Canalys believes the current dynamics instead reflect the rapidly changing nature of wearable devices,” Joe Kempton, a Canalys research analyst, said in a statement. “More sophisticated sensor technology designed specifically for wearables will be arriving soon.”
For example, new devices running Android Wear will launch this summer from LG and other vendors, such as Motorola, which is now poised to re-enter the smart-band market after exiting it two years ago.
While about one in six consumers who have heard about wearable technology are using it–with 61 percent wearing fitness bands–the appeal of wearables goes beyond fashion accessories, particularly as more consumers adopt technology to help address their individual health and fitness needs, according to an April survey from Nielsen.
The company’s recent Connected Life Report found that young adults lead the charge in adopting wearable tech, with consumers between ages 18-34 making up nearly half (49 percent) of owners of fitness bands.