Earwear and Wristbands Drive First Quarter Growth in the Wearables Market

Earwear and Wristbands Drive First Quarter Growth in the Wearables Market

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Global shipments of wearable devices grew 29.7% year over year during the first quarter of 2020 (1Q20) as total device volume reached 72.6 million units, according to IDC. However, the growth was disproportionately spread across the various form factors as growth in wristbands and earwear/hearables was more than enough to offset the decline from smart and basic watches.

Fueled by new product launches such as the Fitbit Charge 4 as well as aggressive price points from mainstays like Xiaomi and Huawei, the wristband category grew 16.2% during the quarter. Meanwhile, hearables grew 68.3% and accounted for 54.9% of the entire market.

"The hearables category was seemingly resilient to the market-suppressing forces caused by COVID-19," said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. "Consumers were clamouring for these sophisticated earpieces not only for the abilty to playback audio but also to help them increase productivity, as many of them were forced to work from home and sought ways to reduce surrounding noise while staying connected to their smartphones and smart assistants."

The spread of COVID-19 also had adverse effects on the supply of smart and basic watches as many of these devices share components and resources with smartphones and PCs, which were also impacted during the first quarter of 2020. Despite the decline, a few vendors, such as Huawei, Garmin, and Huami, managed healthy growth thanks to lesser reliance on markets in China and further expansion into the United States, Europe, and other parts of Asia.

"The downward pressure on watches shifts the onus to the latter half of 2020," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables Team. "This gives companies the time to refine their products and messaging, and to align those with customer needs. Given the hyper focus on overall health and fitness in today's climate, vendors would do well to highlight those capabilities, and provide guidance on how to live healthier lives."

Apple was once again the top wearables company with 29.3% share and 21.2 million units. In second place was Xiaomi, which shipped 7.3 million wristbands and watches. Samsung ranked third as its hearables/earwear business accounted for 74% of its total shipments during the quarter, up from 58.9% in 1Q19. Huawei and its subsidiary Honor captured fourth place and even managed to grow in China despite the lockdown thanks to a strong online presence and close ties with retailers. Fitbit declined 26.1% during the quarter as much of the company's production was based in China, which faced supply issues for multiple weeks during the quarter.

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