Wearables Market is Hot, 11.4 Million Units Shipped in Q1 2015


According to data made available by IDC, the number of wearables shipped globally grew by 200% in the first quarter of 2015 when compared to a similar period last year to stand at a whopping 11.4 million units. Yet wearables have yet to barely scratch the surface. The much anticipated Apple Watch had barely been on sale when this data was being gathered. Considering the huge demand for it at launch, we can’t wait to see what Q2 2015 data looks like.

Here are the figures from IDC:

IDC Q1 2015 wearables data

From the above data, we can draw several conclusions:

  • Android Wear is performing poorly. This is not news anyway but it is worth noting. Samsung has been pushing smartwatches that run Tizen and not Android Wear. With a 5.3% share of the smartphone market, we’re racking our brains trying to figure out what percentage of that share is actually shipments of the Gear Live, Samsung’s only smartwatch that runs Android Wear. It is interesting to note that the Gear Live is no longer on sale since it is no longer available on the Play Store, the only medium it sold via.
  • Apple Watch will blow everyone out of the water. Apple has a strong brand presence in China and sales of its smartphones in the East Asian country have been a big boost to its smartphone business. While we’re not yet sure about the overall market’s reaction to the Apple Watch with its higher price tag and that it works only with iOS devices, we can bet on China pushing the numbers. I mean, look at what Xiaomi managed to achieve with the Mi-band. The Chinese startup (yes, that) has close to 25% of the entire wearables market in Q1 2015 yet its wearable devices were only on sale in China. It has just started availing them outside China.
  • Specialized wearables and not glorified smartwatches that are almost lame when not in the company of a smartphone are popular. Having Fitbit, Garmin and Jawbone in the top five leading wearables vendors just proves that. So far the market has been receptive to wearable devices that address their specific needs. Like health and fitness or tracking.
  • Samsung needs to do a lot of work on their wearables portfolio. It’s not like they are not doing so anyway. The company took a step back from announcing new wearables every other day so as to rethink the smartwatch. We really hope what they’ve been developing behind closed doors will capture the market’s attention and have them increase their share of the wearables market come same time next year. Samsung managed to ship 600,000 wearables in Q1, up from the 300,000 units they managed to ship over a similar period last year. Doubling its shipments wasn’t enough to stop the company from having its share of the smartphone market drop from 7.9% to to 5.3%.
  • Pebble and Sony need to do a lot of work. Honestly, everyone else not appearing in the top five list needs to do a lot of work. Samsung, Apple, Lenovo, Huawei and LG make up the top five smartphone vendors in the world in Q1 2015 according to IDC data. Of the five, only Samsung makes the above list. We know the Apple story already. Lenovo, through Motorola, has the Moto 360 which is one of the most popular Android Wear smartwatches. We’ll wait to see of version 2 of the Moto 360 will shake things up a bit. Huawei has the gorgeous Watch. It will have itself to blame if it doesn’t do much with it. It’s other wearables, the Talkbands aren’t as mainstream and only come up for mention when Huawei is announcing ridiculously large devices like the 6.8 inch P8max so that they can be used as accessories for calling functionality.
    Sony and Pebble are singled out because they’ve had a headstart. Pebble smartwatches have been the most popular in the market for sometime and not even the arrival of the Android Wears has shaken the startup’s hold but still Jawbone managed to wrestle it from contending for top honours. Sony has been pushing its smartwatches for quite sometime and honestly they are not doing as well as they would’ve liked. Probably its decision to finally go with Android Wear for its Smartwatch series will pay off in coming days after earlier reluctance to abandon its proprietary platform.

Looking ahead, the wearables market is going to witness a lot of competition. From sports gear manufacturers like Adidas (sadly Nike discontinued the FuelBand) to traditional technology powerhouses like Apple who want to push the reach of their advanced technologies to more and more users to luxury watch makers like Tag Heuer who have to swim with the tide so as to protect their coveted spot in the watch business in the wake of encroachment from the likes of Apple to new players in the wearables space like Haier, the field is wide open. If anything, smartphone shipments in 2014 topped the 1 billion mark. Wearables have an equal potential and whoever gets it right this early will have something to smile about for a long time to come.

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Emmanuel writes on mobile hardware, software and platforms.