Mobile Trends

Wearables See Triple-Digit Growth

Wearables are not just for gadget enthusiasts and early adopters anymore. They've gone mass-market. More than 71 million wearables were shipped in the last year, according to a new report from market research firm IDC.

According to information released in IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, 78.1 million wearables shipped in 2015, with more than a third — 27.4 million — shipping in the fourth quarter alone. Fourth quarter 2015's shipments represented a 127 percent increase over shipments in the same period the previous year.

According to IDC, that growth was "fueled by the growing popularity of fitness trackers and the Apple Watch." But, while wrist-worn devices dominate the market, they are not the only wearables making inroads with consumers: smart clothing, eyewear and footwear are making inroads as well.

According to Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's Wearables team: "Triple-digit growth highlights growing interest in the wearables market from both end-users and vendors," he said in a prepared statement. "It shows that wearables are not just for the technophiles and early adopters; wearables can exist and are welcome in the mass market. And since wearables have yet to fully penetrate the mass market, there is still plenty of room for growth in multiple vectors: new vendors, form factors, applications, and use cases. This will help propel the market further."

He added that increased adoption will be spurred by "continued innovation and development. The market can only get so far with 'me too' and 'copycat' wearable devices. End-users expect improvement from what they have now, and new applications to spur replacement and increased adoption. Historical data, like steps taken and calories burned, has been a very good start. Prescriptive data, like what else a user can do to live a healthier life, coupled with popular applications like social media, news, and navigation, will push wearables further, and attract more users."

Fitbit still dominates wearables. And while it's Q4 2015 was positive — with 8.1 million units shipped, a 52.8 percent increase over Q4 2014 — its market share dropped from 43.9 percent to 29.3 percent in terms of units shipped.

No. 2 Apple grabbed onto 15 percent of the market in the fourth quarter, with 4million wearables shipped. According to IDC: "Apple grew its Watch distribution, enjoyed holiday promotions, and drove the company's overall 'Other Products' revenue during 4Q15. However, volumes for the quarter grew only slightly from the previous quarter and total revenues have yet to counterbalance the slowing growth and declines from the company's other product categories. Expectations are higher for the next-generation Watch that can leverage the company's platforms (HealthKit, ResearchKit, WatchKit, and watchOS 2) and connectivity capabilities."

No. 3 Xiaomi saw a 258.5 percent increase in shipments, driven by purchases of its fitness trackers in China. (Xiaomi saw 951.8 percent growth for the full calendar year.)

Samsung's wearables business grew 65 percent in the quarter, with 1.3 million units shipped. According to IDC: "Samsung finished just ahead of Garmin to take fourth place during the quarter. Driving volumes was its Gear S2, which caught attention for its bezel-based user interface and its optional cellular connectivity. Beyond the Gear S2 were legacy devices including the year-old Gear S and the two-year old Gear Fit. The company recently begun experimenting with other form factors, including a smart belt, NFC-connected suit, and footwear."

Rounding out the top 5 in Q4 2015 was Garmin, maker of fitness trackers. It saw shipments of 1 million units in the quarter, a 48.2 percent increase over the previous year.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .