Sport/Smart Watch ShakeUp Starts – IDC Figures WILL Cast A Long Shadow

Sport/Smart Watch ShakeUp Starts for Wearables

Apple Watch 4 Review Nike 44mmDespite any Covid-induced slowdown in the first quarter of 2020, IDC reports that the wearable market of factory-shipped devices grew by almost 30% y.o.y. – so that’s just the number of devices and not the retail value, hence a skew toward the influence of cheaper products. Nevertheless, it’s a good level of overall growth.

The aggregate figures include ‘hearables’ which account for over half of the wearables market, I don’t quite think that music-playback earbuds have anywhere near the sophistication of an Apple Watch and perhaps should be included as simple audio playback devices in many cases but let’s leave the figures as what they are but focus more on the watch numbers that IDC also breaks out.

Huawei, Garmin, and Huami all managed to maintain good growth, although I would expect that to change significantly when we look at Q2 figures where I’m guessing we will see more of the significant impact that Covid19 has had on Western markets.

What IDC Data Says About the Companies (my opinions)

Apple was the #1 company with nearly a third of the market although their overall share of WATCH sales fell slightly to approx 25% of units shipped. Let’s watch this number VERY closely this year. 2019 could well have been Peak Apple (Watch). If that turns out to be the case we will see Apple step up a gear perhaps introducing more variants on AW6/7 (2020-2021) – perhaps finally even a more sporty round one 😉 Maybe.

Xiaomi (partner with Huami to make Amazfit) and have several low-cost products including Amazfit GTS, GTR, T-Rex and the new Amazfit Ares (they also do 3rd party watches for people like Timex IIRC), and we’ve not even seen the full impact of those on the market yet. Along with other low-cost companies, these are going to become much more widely known and trusted by consumers – the Amazfit Stratos was a pretty good product 2 and a bit years ago and the 3rd Gen product is even better.

Huawei (and Honor) saw impressive growth which IDC report to be in China. But Huawei is going to face very significant difficulties in the future in English-speaking markets (perhaps not the UK) and probably also with the EU, reportedly due to their inherent links to the Chinese state demanded by Chinese law – simply put they are legally forced to spy – I’m probably imagining it, right? Source UK tabloid rag, read it and make your own mind up, they only cite the opinion of leading international lawyers. Try Twitter instead.

Samsung’s share with Watches fell, unfortunately for them I expect that to continue ultimately because their watch sales will be primarily driven by smartphone sales (which I believe are heading South too) rather than standalone sales.

Fitbit watches have now well and truly descended into the ‘others’ category, perhaps due to technical reasons for this quarter. I’ve bemoaned Fitbit’s watches many times but believe (hope) that Google will perhaps eventually make a good showing with them on Wear OS.

Garmin looks to be one of the winners right now. Along with Apple, Google and some others they are sitting on an Alpine cash mountain-range sufficient to weather event the worst financial typhoon, let alone to weather a mere storm in a Covid-filled teacup. They have more real product innovations to come, they have more geographic markets yet to properly capitalise on and their short-term market share potential smells rosy. They may even leapfrog over Samsung in Q4.2020, let’s see. As I’ve said before, looking into the longer term they are going to be squeezed at the bottom, middle and top of most of their sporty markets. Don’t be surprised to see Google-Fitbit back up higher on the watches chart (eventually)

[Opinion, End]

IDC data below, draw your own conclusions


Top 5 Wearable Device Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q1 2020 (shipments in millions)


Company1Q20 Shipments1Q20 Market Share1Q19 Shipments1Q19 Market ShareYear-Over-Year Growth
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, May 2020


Top 5 Watch* Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q1 2020 (shipments in millions)
Company1Q20 Shipments1Q20 Market Share1Q19 Shipments1Q19 Market ShareYear-Over-Year Growth
TOTAL16.9 100.0%18.2 100.0%-7.1%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, May 2020

* IDC Note: Watch includes both Basic Watches and Smart Watches. Basic watches incorporate a microprocessor, are capable of digitally processing data, and have wireless connectivity, but do not run third-party applications. Smart watches meet all four requirements.


Source: IDC

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7 thoughts on “Sport/Smart Watch ShakeUp Starts – IDC Figures WILL Cast A Long Shadow

  1. Huami is also growing, they now have developed a new RISC-V chip for wearables. I’m glad that they hace chosen a open source architecture. Actual Qualcomm development for wearables is already obsolete. SoCs from Samsung, Apple and Huawei are miles ahead of Qualcomm… Google seems lost. Not sure what they pretend with Fibit, maybe kick WearOS and do something new? I don’t know.
    Fresh news…

    Things are obviously evolving. The question is which of them will do first the jump to serious sports watches with an open platform. The problem is that all them want now, far from Google, their owns sdks and tech for wearables. While in the phone’s world it’s the opposite for now. But business between some of them are now tense with goverments in the middle and probably, Huawei will end with its own OS sooner than later. With their own foundries too for hardware. They are also investing in semiconductors startups. Will others follow them too?
    Anyways, we need better hardware for wearables and it’s only a matter of time to watch which are the winners depending the sdk platforms, its freedom, hardware performance and energy efficiency, upcoming popularity and, of course, prices…
    Some have almost a cult of fans, others are still growing and few ones still profiting its niche reign. We also need more competition and it’s coming but perhaps not in the way we though. The time will show it…

    1. interesting stuff, thank you.

      the ‘open’ bit is the most strategically interesting for me. ability to create apps is the only way to beat Garmin eg on bike computers it can only be from an android-based device. maybe what you are saying here is the way beating Garmin can be done on the wrist??

      just having latest grade samsung/apple/huawei tech still doesn’t do it for me for sports tech. if apple can’t get beyond 2 days with their kind of screen tech then i doubt anybody else can perform notably differently.

      1. Hi tfk,
        I do think that Garmin can be ‘competed’ with (beaten will always be subjective) from the wrist. I know I emailed you on this not long ago, but I’ve been using Gear Tracker on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 42. For me it does so much of what I would use a Garmin for, but I prefer it as an everyday watch because of superiour watch based payments, play downloaded Spotify music, very good notifications etc.
        To talk more about the app and why, for me it works well is from the running standpoint, it connects with my Stryd (with Stryd additional metrics potentially added in the future), runs (or other workouts) can be uploaded to multiple platforms (Strava, FS, TP, Runalyze and more), I can make up various structured based workouts and run them with zone alerts – all highly customisable. Battery is enough for me to do a marathon (I have the smaller watch) without playing music and if you get he Galaxy Watch 46, you could probably just about do a 10 hour run. I do think that it is possible for apps to compete with Garmin, but the main limitations appear to be that the watch maker may not give all the inside API detail to non-preferred developers that slows down development and the simple question of time availability of a developer that wants to do it.

      2. The hardware is available. But the big brands still center their product in bright displays that eat batteries. The wearable market is growing so in some way we need the luck that one of them decide to release a variant or model with transflective display of their watches.

        Hopefully Huami can evolve a bit more and, if success, show the path to others. They have the hardware but we need that they open themselves a bit more in terms of software and release a sdk for their sport watches. They let the community to play with them. But is still needed an official sdk. It would be nice to have something like that in their next Stratos 4 with ECG also added.

        Apple, Samsung and Huawei have their sdk and hardware but zero products with transflective displays or solutions like Casio with hybrid or combined displays… But Casio is too slow evolving and in software development. The upcoming display technology for phones and watches are the microled displays. Which will not solve the problem. Solid state batteries sure will help.

        It is a little frustrating to see that we are so close… and yet so far…

        But once one do it right from a sport point of view, the mouth to mouth should work fast, we can help to it and if the sales are enough with the community pushing that way, the competition will do the job and prices will drop to a less abusive level in the small niche of sports watches.

        We are really near to get good alternatives but sadly, what is not lacking in one, is lacking in other… The display or the software or not enough waterproof, etc… And that fine line that separates smartwatches from being ideal for practicing sport still exists.

        But as the hardware is there… Maybe is a matter of contact the right people working for those brands… and suggest them to add a model with the right combination needed and watch if the sales are good. That or still be patience and watch if we have luck next time… while we still buy more of the same again.

        I even also see the alternative of buy something like the Stratos 3 and install and run on it an open source OS like AsteroidOS. But for now i don’t have that time to try it. Maybe with the next Stratos 4 or other in the future. It’ll be interesting to do something like that with the right hardware. Time to time…


      3. I would love one of the main smart watch manufacturers to go with a transflective display. Sony used them years ago on WearOS, it could give just a boost to battery life!

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