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Wearables shipments surged in 2020, thanks to COVID-19

Apple maintained its commanding lead in the market as we redirected our disposable incomes.

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The Apple Watch SE and Series 6 were top devices during the quarter.

CNET

Demand for wearable devices surged in 2020, as consumers confined by the coronavirus pandemic spent their disposable income on electronics instead of the usual leisure activities.

Global shipments of wearables in the fourth quarter grew 27% to 153.5 million units, while shipments for the full year increased 28% to 444.7 million units, according to figures released Monday by market researcher IDC. An increased emphasis on staying healthy during the pandemic helped fuel that growth, IDC said.

"While the shift in spending along with new products and typical seasonality were at play during the fourth quarter, the pandemic has also been good for the market as it has put health and fitness at the forefront of many consumers' minds," Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. "In-home fitness programs are quickly becoming a crucial component of the wearables offering for many companies."

Apple maintained its commanding lead in the market by shipping 55.6 million units during the fourth quarter, holding on to the same 36.2% share of the market it had last year. Apple's shipments in the quarter rose 27% compared with the year-ago period. Its Watch shipments rose 45%, thanks to different price points for the Series 6, Watch SE and Series 3, IDC said.

Xiaomi finished the quarter in second place, with 13.5 million shipments and nearly 9% of the market. Its hearables line was the major force in the quarter, growing more than 55%, while the Mi Band lineup declined 18.3% due to disruptions in the supply chain.

Close behind was Samsung with 13 million shipments, an increase of 20% that gave the company an 8.5 % share of the market for the quarter.  Growth came from its hearables business, which accounted for 8.8 million shipments, while watch shipments declined to 2.9 million.

Rounding out the top five were Huawei, which struggled with US-imposed sanctions, and BoAt, which operates solely in India. The two companies shipped 10.2 million and 5.4 million units, respectively.

Hearables made up the largest category of devices shipped, with a 64.2% share, followed by watches (24.1%) and wristbands (11.5% -- a decline of 17.8% during the quarter).