The State of Wearables: Q2, 2017

Cheap wearables have always been key drivers in the wearable market, with Fitbit and Xiaomi going neck to neck for the top berth in the battle for market share. While budget wearables are showing potential this quarter, there’s now a growing need for Apple to come up with more innovative features for the Apple Watch.

According to a recent research by Strategy Analytics, Xiaomi is currently leading the wearable race, with 17 percent market share, with a total of 3.7 million shipments worldwide this quarter alone. I’ll be talking about the numbers in this article, but the main question is inevitably this: are wearables becoming redundant?

THE NUMBERS

Let’s look at the market as a whole, to start things off. Wearable shipments in Q2 2017 reached 21.6 million units globally, which is a rise by 8%, when compared with the Q2 2016 statistics.

Zooming in on the companies: Xiaomi is the evident leader when it comes to the wearable segment, owing to its uber cheap Mi Band – whose second edition has been doing wonders for the Chinese company. With a total of 3.7 million shipments worldwide in Q2 2017, Xiaomi saw a rise by 23%. With 17 percent marketshare, it’s getting the larger share of the pie.

emberify_wearables_in_q2_2017_market_Share

Apple, on the other hand, shipped 2.8 million wearables worldwide in Q2 2017. While the number of shipments isn’t that significant, what is impressive is the growth from the numbers seen in Q2 2016: A 56% percent growth in 2017, from the figure of 1.8 million shipments in Q2 2016. The key driver for this growth has to be the new variant of the Apple Watch, along with the enhancements in WatchOS.

emberify_wearables_in_q2_2017_vendor_shipments

Finally, Fitbit is falling prey to the increased competition between Apple and Xiaomi. While Xiaomi has its uber affordable Mi Band, Apple’s swanky Watch is attracting the mainstream audience, leaving Fitbit with a reduced number of shipments in Q2, 2017. Fitbit will have to redesign its strategies and find its target audience once again, if it wants to survive in the wearable market.

ARE WEARABLES DYING?

I’m honestly seeing a plateau of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the Quantified Self movement. But let’s face it, people will eventually get tired of seeing the same data, from similar wearable devices. Ultimately, if one wearable is doing the job properly, a user – no matter how big a lifelogger he/she is – will definitely think twice before switching to a new wearable device.

 

My thoughts are actually echoed by Brett Williams’ article on Mashable, where he says that while trackers are providing him data regarding steps taken and heart rate, it isn’t really telling him something which he already doesn’t know. Using the data to gain insight would require the expertise of a coach or a personal trainer, which kind of goes against the purpose of using a tracker in the first place. You can read his article here.

Now that being said, wearables still have a lot of ground to cover so that they can blur the boundaries between ‘novelty’ and ‘useful’. I’ve already spoken about how specialised trackers can be used to glean certain types of information, and how sensors can actually be placed in smartphones for more unobtrusive tracking.

NEW INNOVATIONS

Huawei Watch 2

Huawei Watch 2 launched earlier this year as a standalone LTE connected device. Powered by Android Wear 2.0, it is one of the most advanced smartwatches available in the market right now with a good heart rate sensor, a GPS sensor and decent speakers. Although, it is a niche fitness wearable, Apple seems to be following it with the Apple Watch 4.

WHAT CAN APPLE DO?

Apple has always been a trendsetter of sorts in the smartphone and wearable space, and it is now more than ever that they need to go back to the drawing board. Their image in the wearable space is that of an ultra expensive smart watch that would be appreciated by Apple fanboys and rich enthusiasts, as opposed to Xiaomi, whose wearable lineup is so dirt cheap it’d almost be laughable to miss out on it.

 

According to a recent report by MacRumours, the third generation of Apple Watch – stated to launch sometime this year – will include its own LTE based connectivity for a standalone network connection. The Intel manufactured LTE chips will enable the Apple Watch to be rolled into existing wireless plans for an additional monthly charge, similar to how LTE tablets work.

Apple Watch 3

But then, let’s also consider WWDC 2017, wherein Apple made no significant announcement of 4G connectivity in the Watch, likely reasons for which might include skepticism in the notion that smartwatches might become independent of phones, and also protecting iPhone revenues from cannibalisation.

watchOS 4 has definitely upped the ante, when it comes to being a complete fitness and lifestyle centric wearable OS. However, when it comes to surviving the competition and driving sales, innovation will be the need of the hour.

TAKEAWAY

All things considered, the wearable market is showing growth, but it won’t be for long. While all OEMs are going with a slow and steady methodology, one thing is for certain: wearables are maturing, and not in a good way. Unless there’s some radical disruption in this space, the wearable market as a whole will start seeing a downward turn.

Link for Reference: Strategy Analytics Q2 2017 Research

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Nivedit Majumdar

An analyst for the Emberify blog, Nivedit is a technophile and a blogger. He likes to observe new technology trends and write about them. Know more: about.me/niveditm

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