Global wearables market grew by 31.4% in Q4 2018, Apple continues to dominate

person using a smartwatchThe worldwide wearables market grew by 31.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018, with shipments totaling 59.3 million, according to a new report by the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Wearable device shipments for the whole of last year rose by 27.5 percent to 172.2 million.

The IDC said that it revised its taxonomy for ear-worn devices to include wireless headphones with the capability of enabling smart assistants through either a touch of a button or hot-word detection. Of particular note, this revision means that Apple’s AirPods are now included in the IDC’s wearables category.

A lot of the growth in the wearables market was attributed to growth in smartwatches, wrist bands, and ear-worn devices.

According to the report:

  • Smartwatches grew 55.2% in the final quarter of 2018 compared to the year-ago period, accounting for 34.3% of the overall wearables market.
  • Wrist bands accounted for 30% of the overall market, with launches from Xiaomi, Huawei, and Fitbit driving growth in the category.
  • Ear-worn devices grew 66.4%, accounting for 21.9% of the overall market.

Apple kept its number 1 position in Q4, with 16.2 million devices shipped, 10.4 million of which were Apple Watches, giving Apple a market share of 27.4 percent. The other 5.8 million units included ear-worn wearables like AirPods and certain Beats headphones.

The IDC said Apple Watch Series 4 model has been “off to a very strong start,” and it expects this to continue “as more healthcare organizations and consumers adopt the latest device.”

Xiaomi was in second place for the fourth quarter, behind Apple, with 7.5 million devices shipped, giving the Chinese tech giant a 12.6% share in the market. Xiaomi’s Mi Band 3 performed particularly well and accounted for more than 30% of all wrist bands shipped during the quarter.

Huawei and Fitbit came in third and fourth place with Q4 shipments of 5.7 million and 5.5 million units respectively. In fifth place was Samsung, with 4 million units shipped during the quarter.

“The market for ear-worn wearables has grown substantially this past year and we expect this to continue in the years to come,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.

Ubrani added:

“It is the next battleground for companies as these types of headphones become a necessity for many given the exclusion of headphone jacks from modern devices.

“Add to that the rise of smart assistants and in-ear biometrics and companies have the perfect formula to sell consumers on a device that’s complimentary to the device ecosystem that lives on their wrist and in their pocket.”

Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables, commented:

“Smartwatches, meanwhile, grew 54.3% and accounted for 29.8% of all wearable device shipments in 2018.

“Apple accounted for nearly half the market and followed by a long list of companies that posted double- and triple-digit growth. What resulted from this was a growing list of devices available at multiple price-points to meet the needs of a diverse market.”