Q3 smartwatch shipments fall to half of 2015 levels

The global smartwatch market experienced ‘growing pains’ in the third quarter of 2016, the International Data Company (IDC) has found.

According to the latest IDC ‘Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker’, total smartwatch volumes fell by more than half (51.6 per cent) to 2.7 million units, from 5.6m in Q3 2015.

Apple, the market leader in the smartwatch sector, also reported a large decline in shipments, down from 3.9m in Q3 of 2015 to just over one million units in the three months to September 2016.

However, IDC claimed that while Apple’s decline was ‘significant’, Q3 was the first time the Apple Watch had widespread retail availability after a limited online launch. The second generation Apple Watch was only available in the last two weeks of Q3.

“The sharp decline in smartwatch shipment volumes reflects the way platforms and vendors are realigning,” noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s wearables team. “Apple revealed a new look and feel to watchOS that did not arrive until the launch of the second-generation watch at the end of September. Google’s decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0 has repercussions for its OEM partners as to whether to launch devices before or after the holidays. Samsung’s Gear S3, announced at IFA in September, has yet to be released. Collectively, this left vendors relying on older, ageing devices to satisfy customers.”

Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, added: “It has also become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone. 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.”