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According to a new report by International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, with eight million shipments in the fourth quarter, Apple has become the leader in the global wearables market.
The report said that 4Q17 was the first quarter that Apple held the market leader position all to itself after spending several quarters close behind Fitbit or Xiaomi. Apple is catching the market at the right time with many users of basic wearables moving on to smartwatches and cellular connectivity is earning a warm reception among end users, if only for the convenience of leaving their smartphone behind. The late-year push of 8.0 million units separated Apple from the competition to emerge as the overall leader of the wearables market for the year.
Meanwhile, total volumes for the quarter reached 37.9 million units, up 7.7 percent from the 35.2 million units shipped in the same quarter a year ago. For the full year, total wearable device shipments reached 115.4 million units, up 10.3 percent from the 104.6 million units shipped in 2016.
"The 10.3 percent year-over-year growth in 2017 is a marked decline from the 27.3 percent growth we saw in 2016," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables team. "The slowdown is not due to a lack of interest - far from it. Instead, we saw numerous vendors, relying on older models, exit the market altogether. At the same time, the remaining vendors - including multiple start-ups - have not only replaced them, but with devices, features, and services that have helped make wearables more integral in people's lives. Going forward, the next generation of wearables will make the ones we saw as recently as 2016 look quaint."
The report pointed out that Fitbit continued its transformation in 4Q17 with broader distribution and promotion of its Ionic smartwatch and continued application development for its Fitbit OS platform while Xiaomi posted a slight decrease in shipments, once again relying on its aging MiBand 2 to account for the majority of its volume worldwide. On the other hand, Garmin posted a slight increase from a year ago. Like Fitbit, Garmin relies heavily on its fitness tracker product line and its vivo-branded products helped push its basic wearables selection back above the one million units mark for the quarter and Huawei managed to have the largest growth amongst the top 5 as its recent third generation wristbands have continued to gain popularity in China and helped the company become the number two wearables marker within the country.