You may been a bit surprised, as I was, by a recent Strategic Analytics report that the Apple Watch outsold traditional Swiss-made watches in the fourth quarter of 2015. The tech blogs I read were quick to gush over the ascendancy of Apple’s first foray into wearables, but there’s one problem:
It doesn’t reflect what I see in the real world. Not at all.
Thankfully, there’s another report just published by IDC that provides a much better perspective on the wearables market. Apple may be the world’s most popular smartwatch, but the world’s most popular wearable is Fitbit.
According to IDC Fitbit moved 8.1 million units in Q4 2015, versus 4.1 million units sold by Apple. Fitbit’s total shipments for 2015 were 21 million, versus 11.6 million for Apple. Even Xiaomi sold more wearables outside North America than Apple did worldwide—12 million units, to be exact.
I believe these numbers because they reflect what I observe “in the wild”. Since it’s release I’ve seen exactly one person wearing an Apple Watch, proudly boasting to her friends, by the way, that she didn’t know what to do with it. But increasing numbers of my friends and family are showing up to meet me sporting some sort of Fitbit on their wrist. In fact, the very word “Fitbit” has become a proprietary eponym—as synonymous with fitness tracking as Kleenex is to facial tissue.
While technically not a smartwatch, over half of the wearables in Fitbit’s lineup have some sort of smartwatch functionality, including (perhaps obviously) a clock with programmable alarms but also notifications for incoming calls on a paired smartphone. And I’ve been told by an owner of a Fitbit Charge that his battery lasts up to a month.
All this isn’t to say that the Apple Watch is a flop; remember, it’s still technically the most popular smartwatch in the world. It’s important to remember, though, that the wearables are still a nascent product category, and not one that Apple’s conquered just yet.