Apple Watch wins Q1 wearables race, no matter who you ask

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Apple Watch
Rival market analysts peg Apple Watch shipments at different numbers, but the winner in the smartwatch market isn't in doubt.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple was the top wearables vendor in Q1 according to market analysis firm Canalys. A rival analyst from Asymco also placed Apple at the top, but with a higher total of devices shipped. Canalys put the number at 3.8 million. the other at just over 4 million.

Disagreements like this are possible because Apple itself doesn’t reveal how many smartwatches it sells. Still, both groups of analysts agree that Apple Watch leads the market.

“Key to Apple’s success with its latest Apple Watch Series 3 is the number of LTE-enabled watches it has been able to push into the hands of consumers,” said Canalys Senior Analyst Jason Low. “Operators welcome the additional revenue from device sales and the added subscription revenue for data on the Apple Watch, and the list of operators that sell the LTE Apple Watch worldwide is increasing each month.” This wearable makes up 59 percent of the global cellular-enabled smartwatch market. 

Apple Watch shipments in January-to-March period equaled its performance in the same quarter of last year’s, according to Canalys. Still, it was enough to give Apple 18 percent of the global wearables market.

Horace Dediu, an analyst with Asymco, sees things differently. As mentioned, he though 4 million Apple Watches shipped during the first quarter of this year, and just under 3 million Watches in Q1 of 2017, so shipments are up over 25 percent.

Wearables and smartwatches

Apple exclusively sells smartwatches. Other companies sell a mixture of of these and more basic wearables, like fitness bands.

Canalys says smartwatches make up 43 percent of the total wearables market in units shipped, but 80 percent of the revenue. That’s why companies like Fitbit are moving away from fitness bands to toward more sophisticated models, like the Fitbit Versa.

Apple Watch competitors

The name of the second largest smartwatch vendor might surprise you, though: Garmin. It shipped 1 million smartwatches in Q1 2018, according to Canalys. “Garmin’s transition to smartwatches has been swift as it focuses its GPS expertise on catering to endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Vincent Thielke, Research Analyst at Canalys.

Fitbit shipped about 612 thousand smartwatches in the first quarter. That’s about 24 percent of the company’s total wearables. “Collaboration between Fitbit and Google on the Cloud Healthcare API will help Fitbit get into healthcare systems, and that is a positive move,” said Thielke.