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Fitbit continues to dominate Apple in wearables

In the US, Fitbit owns 61 percent of the wearables market, while Apple accounts for under 7 percent, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Fitbit remains the top player in the wearables market.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Sorry Apple, Fitbit remains the champ in the world of wearables.

About 12 percent of US consumers owned either a fitness band or a smartwatch as of March, according to a survey released Wednesday by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Among those consumers, Fitbit claims the largest chunk of the market, towering over Apple.

"Fitbit established itself as an early market leader, capturing 61.7 percent of the US installed base by communicating a clear and simple value proposition to consumers," Kantar wearable tech analyst Shannon Conway said in a statement. "Apple accounts for 6.8 percent of the total number of fitness band and smartwatch owners in the US."

Fitness bands made by Fitbit, Garmin and other companies lack the range of features found in smartwatches, but they offer a simplicity that is apparently attractive to consumers. Smartwatches may be more versatile, but many people don't see them as must-have devices yet.

"From the onset, fitness bands offered a clear and simple value-proposition centered around health and wellness," Conway said. "On the other hand, smartwatches face a harder sell with their higher price tags and unclear use case, but have found more recent success with lower-cost sports models and marketing their fitness tracking capabilities."

Though smartwatch demand has been growing, fitness bands remain the top dog in the US. Three out of four wearable devices worn by people in the US fall into the fitness category. Just under 23 percent own a smartwatch.

The world of wearables is different in Europe. Only 6.6 percent of those surveyed in the UK, Germany, France and Italy collectively own a wearable. Among those, about 55 percent own a smartwatch, while 44 percent own a fitness band. But Fitbit is still the top player in the combined fitness band and smartwatch market with a share of 18.5 percent. Apple and Samsung, though, are nipping at Fitbit's heels there with market shares of 14 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively.

Shipments of Fitbit's products worldwide rose to 21 million in 2015, up from 11 million in 2014, market researcher IDC said in February. Behind No. 1 Fitbit was China's Xiaomi and then Apple, IDC added.

In a New York Times story on Monday, Fitbit CEO James Park touted the simplicity of his company's devices as a key selling point, arguing that the complexity of smartwatches is the wrong approach for wearables.

Update, 8:37 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Kantar wearable tech analyst Shannon Conway.