Wearables market races ahead, paced by Fitbit, Apple

 Fitbit Blaze watches are displayed during the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Jan 6, 2016.
Fitbit Blaze watches are displayed during the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Jan 6, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The global market for connected wearable devices accelerated at the end of 2015, with Fitbit pacing the leaders and Apple closing ground, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The IDC survey found fourth quarter sales of wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches surged 126.9 per cent compared with a year earlier, with 27.4 million units.

For the full year, sales of wearables sales were up 171.6 per cent at 78.1 million devices.

The jump in sales shows "that wearables are not just for the technophiles and early adopters, wearables can exist and are welcome in the mass market," said IDC's Ramon Llamas.

"And since wearables have yet to fully penetrate the mass market, there is still plenty of room for growth in multiple vectors: new vendors, form factors, applications, and use cases. This will help propel the market further."

Market leader Fitbit sold 8.1 million units in the fourth quarter, for a 29.5 per cent share, IDC said.

Even though Fitbit sales grew more than 50 per cent, its leadership is under assault from other vendors, notably Apple and Chinese maker Xiaomi.

Apple has not publicly released sales figures for its Apple Watch, but IDC estimated the company sold 4.1 million in the fourth quarter and 11.6 million for the year. That gave the California giant a market share of around 15 per cent for both periods, even though its smartwatch sales began in June.

Xiaomi was number three for the final quarter of the year with sales of 2.7 million units and a market sahre of 9.7 per cent, paced by sales growth of 258 per cent.

For the full year, Xiaomi held the number two spot, with a 15.4 per cent share, paced by sales of its fitness tracker selling for as little as US$11 (S$15).

Among the other major vendors, Samsung was number four for the past quarter with a 4.9 per cent share and Garmin fifth with 3.5 per cent.

IDC's Jitesh Ubrani said he sees newer devices coming into the wearables market, with "fashion and design" playing a key role.

"The wearables market isn't just about smartwatches and fitness bands," he said.

"Though the top five certainly dominate with wrist-worn devices, there's been an immense amount of growth in other form factors like clothing, footwear, and eyewear - form factors that arguably require even more fashion sense than watches or bands."