The consumer device wearables category, including smartwatches, fitness trackers and augmented reality glasses, shipped more than 100 million units for the first time in the first quarter, according to research firm IDC. In the second quarter of 2021, sales increased by 34.4 percent compared to the same quarter in 2020.
To be clear, wearables have sold that many (and more) units in a quarter before, but never in Q1, which is usually a slow period after a deluge of holiday-related purchases in Q4.
In recent years, wearables like the Fitbit Versa have been one of the fastest-growing categories of personal electronics, but the devices still lag far behind smartphones in terms of total units moved every quarter or year.
According to IDC’s data, Apple leads the market by a significant margin, presumably thanks to the Apple Watch. In the first quarter of 2021, Apple had a market share of 28.8 percent. Samsung was a distant second with 11.3 percent, followed by Xiaomi with 9.7 percent and Huawei with 8.2. From there, it’s a steep decline to the smaller players, such as BoAt, which has a market share of just 2.9 percent.
However, analysts say startups or smaller companies like BoAt are driving significant year-over-year growth for wearables. Here’s the word from IDC’s wearables research director, Ramon T. Llamas:
Larger companies have certainly drawn attention to the global wearables market, but it is the smaller companies that are driving growth. Instead of competing directly with products that are comparable to the market leaders, these smaller companies have instead targeted specific markets and thrive with different solutions. For example, BoAt, the number five company on our list, managed to focus only on the Indian market and was rewarded with triple-digit growth. Another example comes from Oura, whose fitness tracking ring caught the attention of major sports teams and consumers. These and many other companies contributed to the Other category, which grew 55.5% year-over-year.
IDC’s report says the fastest growth is coming from form factors beyond smartwatches, such as digitally connected rings, audio goggles and wearable patches. This subcategory of grab bags within wearables, which the IDC simply classifies as “other,” actually grew 55 percent year-over-year.
Major tech companies like Samsung and Apple have repeatedly told investors in their quarterly earnings calls that wearables are among the fastest-growing sources of revenue and new users, and the companies have said the category will be a major focus going forward. Currently, the wearables space is mostly dominated by wrist fitness trackers, but as the data shows, there are some signs that other wearables could break through. Analysts expect this growth to continue in the future.
The result can be a personal computing landscape where users rely on a variety of specialized devices for specific circumstances rather than relying purely on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop as the all-in-one hub. That said, if the way devices from Apple, Samsung and Google work is any indication, many wearables will likely treat the smartphone as a mobile nerve center for a plethora of connected devices.