In its first appearance in the wearables market, Apple finds itself within striking distance of the established market leader, Fitbit. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units in the second quarter of 2015 (2Q15), 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% from the 5.6 million units shipped in 2Q14.
Apple’s arrival had the greatest impact on the smart wearables category, or those devices capable of running third party applications. “About two of every three smart wearables shipped this quarter was an Apple Watch,” said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Aanalyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
In the short history of the wearable market, a clear 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.
Fitbit‘s 2Q15 results reads as a list of successes: triple-digit year-over-year worldwide volume growth; double-digit year-over-year worldwide revenue and profit growth; expanded partnerships with corporate wellness groups, fashion, and food companies; and increased visibility in the media. Fitbit resonates with customers because it has remained true to its simple value proposition of tracking fitness to encourage healthier lifestyles rather than promising the multi-purpose functionality that most smart watches have sought.
Apple‘s first appearance in the wearables market finds it in the number 2 position overall, and well within reach of market leader Fitbit. Apple is just getting started with its Watch, having reached just sixteen geographic markets to date and starting agreements with third-party retailers. But what is most important is the continued development of the watchOS platform. At its WWDC in June, Apple announced that the next version of watchOS will allow for native applications, which could have a similar effect that iPhones enjoyed when native apps became available.
Xiaomi made a fairly big splash when it entered the wearables market last year with its Mi Band. Since then its growth has been unstoppable in China as the vendor was quick to introduce rock-bottom prices. Xiaomi recently expanded into markets outside China although its limited distribution channels have been a dampening factor on its growth.
Garmin‘s laser-like focus on fitness devices for “citizen athletes” (runners, cyclists, and swimmers) has been successful so far, though increasing competition from the likes of Fitbit and Xiaomi has led to a reduction in share.
Samsung narrowly edged out Huawei and Jawbone to remain among the top 5 vendors during the quarter. The company saw sustained success with the popularity of its Gear S and Gear Fit devices, and hinted at a massively redesigned Gear S2 to be announced next month.