The slow death of fitness trackers has stunted wearable growth

As smartwatches continue to rise
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

We've heard the constant drumbeat of analysts on the wearable market for a while now: Fitness trackers are on their way out as people increasingly turn toward smartwatches that can do more.

It turns out this shift may drag down the entire wearable industry, according to new IDC numbers. Worldwide shipments of wearables only grew 1.2% year-over-year in Q1 2018, that's far lower than the 18% year-over-year growth in the previous year.

Essential reading: Using Apple Watch with no iPhone

What's up with the massive drop? Have people deemed wearables as a passing fad? Nope, instead that drop is due to the 9.2% decline in shipments for fitness trackers. That segment was such a popular part of the wearable market that its decline has impacted some big numbers. But at the same time, smartwatches from the likes of Apple, Fitbit and Garmin rose 28.4% year-over-year.

Apple Watch Series 3 continues to be a massive success for Apple, growing 13.5% year-over-year (shipping 4 million units) as the Watch entered new markets and carriers welcomed another way to charge customers for a data plan. Apple's growth is so good that it's also outpacing the rest of the pack, owning 16.1% of the total market now.

Xiaomi brings up number two thanks to its affordable fitness trackers, but it also only saw year-over-year growth of 2.3%, shipping 3.7 million units. Fitbit continues to be the big loser of people turning away from fitness trackers, dropping 28% year-over-year and shipping only 2.2 million units. However, the Fitbit Versa, the company's newest smartwatch, is proving to be quite the success.

Huawei was the huge winner this quarter, notching growth of 147% year-over-year - moving 1.3 units versus 500,000 units this quarter last year. That's down to Huawei's strategy of having a wide selection of wearables, from smartwatches to kids trackers to fitness trackers.

Garmin saw good growth as well at 9.1%, mostly due to its adoption of features like Garmin Pay and music. The rest of the wearable industry saw a dip of 2.3% in shipments. Outside of the world of wrist-based wearables, the world of smart clothing saw the biggest leap with growth of 58.6%.

Overall, the wearable industry is doing just fine. It's got some growing pains as folks move away from fitness trackers and toward smartwatches, but people are really into these smartwatch things, with their music and fitness capabilities - they ain't going anywhere.

How we test

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.

Related stories