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Apple Watch lead sags as smartwatch market sinks

Apple's timepiece remains the most popular smartwatch, but Garmin is hot on its heels.

The Apple Watch is the timepiece of choice for 41 percent of smartwatch buyers.
James Martin

Bought a smartwatch recently? How very 2015 of you.

The number of smartwatches shipped over the most recent three months has declined 52 percent compared with the same July-to-September period last year, according to a report by IDC wearables analysts.

Apple remains the leading smartwatch maker, but it has also seen fewer people interested in its tech-enabled timepiece this year than in 2015. It has lost significant ground to Garmin, thanks to that company's growing portfolio of fitness-focused smartwatches.

In 2015, Apple owned more than 70 percent of the smartwatch market and Garmin only 2 percent. Garmin now owns more than 20 percent, and Apple 41 percent.

Samsung has remained on pretty much an even keel, even though its newest watch, the Gear S3, hasn't yet gone on sale. Motorola, on the other hand, has been a victim of its own success, given that many vendors sold out of the first and second generations of its Moto 360 device -- and that for the first time in several years it has not released a smartwatch in the run-up to the holidays.

A major factor in the decline in smartwatch shipments is Google's decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0, said IDC wearables research manager Ramon Llamas. "Collectively, this left vendors relying on older, ageing devices to satisfy customers."

In turn, Apple held back the release of the latest version of its WatchOS until the Watch Series 2 launched at the end of September.

Apple and Garmin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.