IDC report shows Fitbit stagnation- but wearables are still surging

The question is: are Apple's AirPods really wearables?
Lifestyle photo of Fitbit Versa 2.,,Photographer: Tyler Ford & Kristin Brewer.
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A new report by IDC indicates that wearables sales are booming. But Fitbit’s growth has all but disappeared, and it's losing traction in the wearables market.

IDC’s Q319 Worldwide Wearables Shipments report showed a 94.6% growth in wearable tech shipments (compared to Q3 2018), and that’s all thanks to a word we haven’t heard for a while: hearables.

While the first wave of hearables flopped hard (the likes of Bragi Dash and Doppler's Hear One), the era of smart earbuds is now well and truly upon us, and they’re bolstering the numbers.

Around 50% of IDC’s “wearable” shipments are now essentially headphones – which makes us question if these are really wearables at all.

However, in spite of this, the IDC figures paint a bleak picture for Fitbit. The company has historically played second fiddle to Apple, but a worrying lack of growth has sees it slump down the rankings – and was only the fifth biggest wearable company this quarter.

Part of this is the inclusion of wireless earbuds in the wearable market, which has bolstered Apple and Samsung’s showing. But, even still, the figures don’t look healthy.

IDC estimates 0.5% year-on-year growth – which is actually up with Q3 2018’s, where its shipments were actually -3.5%. Fitbit is fighting hard just to stay still.

Apple keeps on winning

The outright winner seems to be Apple, which IDC deems to have grown 195% year-on-year – buoyed by the Series 5, a ludicrous price cut on the Series 3 and the seriously amazing new AirPods Pro. The Cupertino company is killing it, and its 35% wearables market share is evidence of that.

Second place is Xiaomi, with its Mi Band fitness tracker range, which it’s still turning out at 12.5 million shipments per quarter. That’s pretty staggering when you think Xiaomi doesn’t have a hearable product, and its Mi Watch only landed in China in November.

We’ve written extensively about the Xiaomi Mi Watch - with its Apple Watch-style design and no lack of smarts for a sub-$200 price, we’re certain it will become a key player when it eventually lands outside of China.

Third place is Samsung, which IDC praises for strong smartwatch shipments – and the ability to bundle its devices with smartphones, helping take the fight to Apple.

And then Huawei is the surprise package, given its political woes. That success has come with very strong performance in China alone. 80% of its devices have been bought within the country and wearable shipments are up 180% year-on-year.

What have we learned?

The inclusion of wireless earbuds confuses the wearables picture here – and makes year-on-year comparisons tough.

Apple’s offering is bigger and stronger than ever – and the price cut on the Series 3 has wrapped up the market in many ways. It’s now just Android compatibility away from total domination.

And while the tweaking of numbers does Fitbit no favours, it’s not managed to grow in Q3 in the last two years. Its smartwatch pivot certainly stemmed losses, but it’s getting swamped: and the Xiaomi Mi Watch could now be an existential threat that Google will have to deal with.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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