Apple topples Fitbit as the world’s top wearable company

Apple now takes the top spot in the wearable market.
Image: Jose Sanchez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Move over, Fitbit: there’s a new king of the wearables market.

Even though Tim Cook won’t disclose exact Apple Watch sales numbers, the company has been crowned the new top dog of wearables, pushing Fitbit off its throne.

Strategy Analytics‘ latest report on the state of the global wearables market found that Apple’s marketshare has expanded rapidly from last year, with a 3.8 percent spike from 12.1 percent in Q1 2016 to 15.9 percent in 2017. The analytics firm estimated (because again, Tim Cook won’t tell us the real amount) that Apple shipped 3.5 million watches during the quarter, up from 2.2 million in the same period last year.

“The new Apple Watch Series 2 is selling relatively well in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere due to enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.

Other analysts have pointed to the Series 2 Watch’s increased focus on health and fitness features as being especially appealing to consumers.

While Apple’s rise to the top is certainly notable, the bigger news might be how the marketshare has spread over the past year. Fitbit and Xiaomi both took up more than a fifth of the entire wearable market in Q1 2016. Fast-forward one year, and those shares have dropped dramatically, from 20.9 percent to 15.5 percent for Xiaomi and, even more drastically, 24.7 percent to 13.2 percent for Fitbit.

Apple finally leapfrogged Fitbit to take the top spot in the wearables market.

Image: strategy analytics

Apple’s gain was, more than anything else, Fitbit’s loss. The activity tracking giant’s fall from the top spot in the market comes after ceding most of its lead last quarter. The drop is just the latest sign of trouble for the company, which began the year by laying off six percent of its workforce.

“Fitbit has lost its wearables leadership to Apple, due to slowing demand for its fitnessbands and a late entry to the emerging smartwatch market,” said Cliff Raskind, the Director at Strategy Analytics, in the statement. “Fitbits shipments, revenue, pricing, and profit are all shrinking at the moment and the company has a major fight on its hands to recover this year.

“Fitbits shipments, revenue, pricing, and profit are all shrinking at the moment and the company has a major fight on its hands to recover this year.

The company’s recovery could hinge on its upcoming smartwatch, which has been the subject of a series of unflattering leaks. The device, which still hasn’t been officially announced, was reportedly delayed until later this fall after major development issues, and was called, among other things, “definitely not sexy” by the leakers.

Uncertain futures

While Fitbit’s ultimate fate is still unclear, the future of wearables, more specifically smartwatches, has been repeatedly called into question, even by some of the people in charge of the companies making them.

Most recently, the new king of the market had a scary moment when several premium apps, including those from Google Maps, Amazon, and eBay, quietly dropped their support from the Apple Watch.

With the entire smartwatch industry potentially on the brink, one might think that Apple refusing to share its stats could be a cause for concern. For Raskind, that ambiguity isn’t a problem. When asked if Apple’s policy obscures the actual state of the market for analysts, he was confident in his methods.

“We have been tracking gadget marketshare for vendors like Apple, Samsung, etc. since the 1990s and have long developed supply and demand side based methodologies to verify shipment and market numbers,” he told us via email. “Market sizing for wearables and smartwatches is an expert process of sourcing numbers from multiple brands and not just one brand.”

There you have it: Apple might be king (for now), but at the end of the day, the market is bigger than just one company.

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