Smartwatch sales appear to have fallen off a cliff

apple store major revamp smartwatch
Trevor Mogg
Has everyone who wants a smartwatch already bought a smartwatch? New data released by IDC on Monday shows a sharp decline in shipments, or “a round of growing pains” as the research firm puts it, for the quarter ending September 30, 2016.

The research firm said total smartwatch shipments reached 2.7 million units for the three-month period, marking a hefty 51.6 percent year-on-year decline.

It should be noted, however, that the same quarter a year ago was the first in which the Apple Watch became widely available following a limited launch, causing a rush of sales at that time; this year the Apple Watch 2 sneaked in at the end of the most recent quarter, hitting the market in the middle of September. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what impact the Apple Watch 2 has on overall smartwatch sales during the final three months of this year.

Ramon Llamas, research manager of IDC’s Wearables team, also put the noticeable slump down to Google’s decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0 and the fact that Samsung’s Gear S3 is yet to be released. “Collectively, this left vendors relying on older, aging devices to satisfy customers,” Llamas said in a release.

While Apple remains the biggest seller in the smartwatch sector with 1.1 million shipments scoring it 41.3 percent of the market in Q3, the figure marks a notable 28.9 percent year-on-year decline. The biggest gainer in the last year is Garmin, which sits in second place behind Apple with 20.5 percent of the Q3 market (600,000 units shipped), up from a paltry 2.3 percent a year ago.

IDC put this down to Garmin’s tendency to focus on health and fitness with its wearables, giving potential buyers a clear sense of what the device is about.

Other companies in the top five include Samsung with 14.4 percent of the Q3 market (up from 6.4 percent a year ago), Lenovo with 3.4 percent (6.2 pc), and Pebble with 3.2 percent (3.3 pc).

The latest figures mark the continuation of a downward trend in smartwatch shipments, with Q2 data also having shown a year-on-year decline of 32 percent with shipments totaling 3.2 million units.

Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said it’s become “evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone”

Ubrani added, “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity. However, moving forward, differentiating the experience of a smartwatch from the smartphone will be key and we’re starting to see early signs of this as cellular integration is rising and as the commercial audience begins to pilot these devices.”

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