The worldwide wearables market hit new highs last year, with Apple moving past competitors Fitbit and Xiaomi to take the top spot.
According the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, total volumes for the quarter hit 37.9 million units, a 7.7 percent increase from the 35.2 million units shipped in the same quarter a year ago.
And for all of 2017, total wearable device shipments reached 115.4 million units, up 10.3 percent from the previous year.
“The 10.3 percent year-over-year growth in 2017 is a marked decline from the 27.3 percent growth we saw in 2016,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables team. “The slowdown is not due to a lack of interest — far from it. Instead, we saw numerous vendors, relying on older models, exit the market altogether. At the same time, the remaining vendors — including multiple startups — have not only replaced them, but with devices, features, and services that have helped make wearables more integral in people's lives. Going forward, the next generation of wearables will make the ones we saw as recently as 2016 look quaint.”
And while Apple has lagged behind competitors Fitbit and Xiaomi in years past, it finally claimed the top spot in 2017.
“Interest in smartwatches continues to grow, and Apple is well-positioned to capture demand,” added Llamas. “User tastes have become more sophisticated over the past several quarters, and Apple pounced on the demand for cellular connectivity and streaming multimedia. What will bear close observation is how Apple will iterate upon these and how the competition chooses to keep pace.”
A key factor in Apple's success is that many users are looking to step up from basic wearables into smartwatches and cellular connectivity. In addition, Apple’s late-year push of 8 million units enabled the company to overtake the market for the year.
"Although prices for individual products have slowly declined, consumer preferences have shifted to more sophisticated devices and towards well-recognized brands. It’s due to this that the wearables market has seen healthy double-digit growth in average selling prices since 2016," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Combined with the potential to sell added software and services, wearables are proving to be an increasingly lucrative market for brands and service providers.”