Apple hot on Fitbit's heels as global wearable sales soar

Wearables sales are booming, with Fitbit and Apple leading the way and Chinese companies not far behind.


Apple is already making a huge impression on the global wearables market.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The launch of the Apple Watch and new devices from luxury brands like Tag Heuer has made 2015 seem like a massive year for wearable tech, and now the latest sales figures are confirming it as fact.

Sales of wearable tech worldwide shot up 200 percent in the last three months compared with the same period in 2014, according to research firm IDC, with total device shipments coming to 21 million units.

Wearables might still feel like niche devices, but booming sales do suggest that adoption is slowly but surely increasing. Fitness trackers made by the likes of top sellers Fitbit and Garmin have traditionally outsold smartwatches, but smartwatches are starting to catch up in terms of market share -- all without cannibalising the sale of fitness bands. There's a reason for this: the Apple Watch.

Apple has entered the market as the No. 2 maker of wearables worldwide this year, boasting 18.6 percent of the total market share by shipping 3.9 million devices. Fitbit remains the No. 1 maker of wearables globally, and while its shipments have grown from 2.3 million to 4.7 million, it has sacrificed some of its market share to Apple's success.

The other two companies that complete the list of the top five wearables brands are Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi and XTC, the latter of which knocked Samsung off the list. XTC debuted its first wearable, a children's watch phone, this year and managed to ship 700,000 units in China, the only country it operates in.

"The early stages of the wearables market have led to tight competition among the leading vendors, and Chinese vendors have seized upon market momentum to grab market share," said Ramon Llamas, IDC's wearables research manager. "China has quickly emerged as the fastest-growing wearables market, attracting companies eager to compete on price and feature sets."

With the average smartwatch priced at $400 and the average basic band priced at $94, IDC believes new players will find it easy to pitch their own devices into the mix. "This leaves a lot of room for new players like Fossil and niche players like Pebble as they have an opportunity to address this space," said Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst at IDC.

Growth in wearables doesn't look like it will slow down anytime soon, either. By 2019, IDC predicts, global wearables shipments will have soared to 126 million units annually, with smartwatches and bands becoming increasingly sophisticated, as well as new types of devices coming to market.

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