AirPods and other hearables are helping to spearhead wearable growth

All headphones are hearables now, according to IDC
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More and more, wearables are starting to pay off for those investing in them heavily. In the past year, we've seen Apple sell a ton of Watches and Fitbit turn things around with the Versa. For some time hearables have made up just a fraction of that, but that's starting to change.

The latest IDC report says wearable shipments grew 27.5% year-over-year from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018. A lot of that growth has to do with the boom of assistant-enabled hearables.

Read this: The best smartwatches 2021

Now, there is a caveat here. IDC has changed its definition of hearables to include devices like AirPods, Pixel Buds, Galaxy Buds, Bose's QC35 and more. Any pair of headphones or earbuds that allow you to speak to an assistant are considered hearables, says IDC. Those devices grew 66.4% year-over-year and captured 21.9% of the wearable market.

Smartwatches continue to be the big winner, growing 55.2% year-over-year and soaking up 34.2% of the wearable market. In the industry overall, Apple is still the leader, owning 27.4% of the market and growing 21.5% year-over-year. It shipped 16.2 million wearables in Q4 2018, with 10.4 million of those being Apple Watches. The rest were AirPods and Beats by Dre headphones.

Number two in the rankings is Xiaomi, which remains strong in China but is seeing more growth in the rest of Asia and Europe. It grew 43.3% year-over-year, shipping 7.5 million devices in Q4 2018. That was led by the success of the Mi Band 3.

Despite some legal and political troubles in the US, Huawei is flying high. It posted a massive 248.5% year-over-year growth with 5.7 million units shipped in Q4. It was one of the few companies to grow in the smartphone market, and it used that to its advantage, bundling many of its wearables with its smartphones, which helped supercharge its growth.

Fitbit has used the Versa and Charge 3 to gain back profitability, but it saw modest growth of 3% year-over-year. In fact, Fitbit is the only one of the top five wearable companies to see negative growth year-over-year. In 2018 it shipped 13.8 million wearables, while shipping 15.4 million units in 2017.

It's likely that people switching from fitness trackers to smartwatches has affected Fitbit's volume, but the company is still in a good position and has now culled some older devices in favor of a more smartwatch-friendly future, set to be driven by its new Versa Lite Edition. Plus, it's got health services on the way.

Samsung, which posted 105.6% year-over-year growth, used the same strategy that Huawei did. It bundled many of its wearables, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch, with its popular smartphones, boosting its growth. It's clear that companies are taking advantage of their ecosystems to push wearables, and it seems to be working.

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Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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