Apple took the crown and led a surge in the 2017 worldwide wearables market

The Apple Watch's dominance grows

Over the past couple months we've seen that the Apple Watch Series 3 has been a huge boon to Apple. It's doubled Watch sales year-over-year and was the fourth best selling gadget - not just wearable - of 2017.

But now, according to IDC's year-end numbers, it looks like it's also helped push a surge in wearables. The global wearable market grew 7.7% in Q4 2017, and 10.3% for the entire year.

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That actually doesn't look so pretty when you look at the 27.3% growth in 2016, but IDC says that's down to older vendors exiting the market and remaining players filling their shoes with even more advanced devices. Consumers are increasingly turning to wearables with smarter features and services and turning away from basic ones like fitness trackers.

Apple, as it tends to do, has managed to ride this wave at the most opportune moment, finding itself as the overall market leader, above both Xiaomi and Fitbit and jumping from 10.8% market share to 15.3% market share (a 55.9% increase). In addition, while wearable prices have declined, people want smarter features and have looked to big name brands who can provide that.

"User tastes have become more sophisticated over the past several quarters and Apple pounced on the demand for cellular connectivity and streaming multimedia," Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables team. "What will bear close observation is how Apple will iterate upon these and how the competition chooses to keep pace."

Leaving the phone behind

Cellular connectivity seems to have been the key, as IDC has found that users are enjoying the ability to leave their phone behind and not be worried about being disconnected. As for Fitbit, 2017 was indeed a transition year, as the company is trying to turn itself from a hardware company that sells fitness trackers to more of a digital health company.

Xiaomi saw a slight decrease in shipments, with its older Mi Band 2 leading the way for the majority of volume. Xiaomi may be up there with the big boys, but IDC says its focus is still China, as only 15% of its products head beyond China's borders.

Essential reading: How Swatch could lead a smartwatch revolution

Garmin is sitting pretty. While it didn't move around too much, its smart wearables, led by the likes of the Vivo and Fenix lines, have begun inching toward the one million mark for the first time and is growing faster than its basic wearables line.

Fitbit saw the biggest drop, going from 22.5 million shipments in 2016 to 15.4 million shipments in 2017 - that's a 31.6% drop year-over-year. Fossil, obviously, continues to grow at a great rate, going from 2.1 million shipments in 2016 to 4.9 million units in 2017 - a 133% increase.

As we've learned over the past year, the wearable market is in a shift. People are getting more comfortable with wearables, and according to IDC what they want is smarter wearables that come with services like music streaming. The future is bright.

Apple takes the crown and leads a surge in the worldwide wearables market for 2017

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  • yogibimbi·

    Of all the LTE watches, Apple's is the only one that meets my requirements which are: LTE (obviously) and waterproofness. I can't believe that, even with the variety the Wear ecosystem is offering, we're still stuck at LTE without any reasonable kind of waterproofness. Apple's offering is simply not doable for me because it carries the iPhone requirement as a concrete shoe and would require me to not only change my watch but also my phone OS-system, and I am not prepared to do that.

    For what it does, the Nixon Mission replaced my Suunto Core just nicely, albeit at a higher price, but I knew that when I bought it, and I got connectivity and GPS in the bargain (but lost the buttons, so, taking my times in the pool is pretty nigh impossible, my only real gripe). Yes, the battery life outside of airplane mode is still not much to write home about, and there were some charging problems initially that, thanks to excellent and very responsive customer service from Nixon, were taken care of. Yes, Nixon could lose the microphone, which only complicates things and who in their right mind would talk into their watch while it is still tethered to a phone anyway? Headsets it's where it's at, and Nixon should bundle an inexpensive but serviceable bt-headset such as Anker's, if they are dead-set to prove their mettle in the mobile communications market.

    Casio has been the biggest disappointment so far, getting in too late and only with half their buttocks, but they were already getting very complacent with their G-Shock watches, so nothing completely surprising there. What Casio could really bring to the party is their Solar charging know-how but, true to their past attempts, it's again bringing too little too late. And with Google not really caring about Wear, it's easy to see why Apple is running away with the wearable market and, in old Apple manner, once they have it (well, they already pretty much do, apparently), users are locked into the ecosystem and it's hard to get out. I know it, I have been on MacOS for my laptops (only hardware platform I have been using) since 1995 and it's simply mind-boggling how Apple is falling behind in the laptop market with lackluster hardware (comparing a MacBook [Pro] to a Surface reduces me to tears) and their "pro" tablets still running on a kiddy OS such as iOS, with half-buttocked pen input to boot, and gets away with it by telling (and succeeding) their customers what limitations they are supposed to put up with.

    If Nixon put 3 hardware buttons and LTE and NFC in the next Mission, kept it at 100 m waterproof and lost the microphone for good measure, they can ask 500 or 600 euros for it, and I would probably still throw my money at them if it were any good.

    Apple's advantage was that they had a vision and stuck to it all through the iterations,up until the inclusion of LTE and make the Watch untethered and independent, while everybody else was just dipping their toes into the market and pulled back when things were not working as hoped because there were still things missing on their platforms to entice the masses and serious watch users in. So, now that the smartwatch market has finally matured, Apple pretty much has it to themselves while Wear is left to pick up the scraps and hope Apple doesn't figure out the battery issues as well while it's running away with their lunch.