Fitbit finally becomes serious Apple Watch competitor

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Fitbit Versa
The Versa helped Fitbit's smartwatch shipments grow 348 percent.
Photo: Fitbit

Fitbit smartwatch shipments more than tripled last quarter. That pushed this company up to where it can actually begin to rival Apple Watch.

Apple still enjoys a commanding lead, but Fitbit managed to take a chunk out of its rival’s global market share.

“Apple continues to dominate the smartwatch market with a lion’s share of 30 percent of the smartwatches shipped,” noted Counterpoint’s Research Director, Jeff Fieldhack, in a statement. “The introduction of the Series 4 this fall was the biggest update from a design and features standpoint, and has quickly resonated with Apple’s loyal user base. Apple’s Series 3 saw an uptick later in the quarter with discounted pricing.”

In the same quarter a year ago, Apple had 35 percent of the market. The decease isn’t because Apple is selling fewer devices. It comes from Fitbit selling so many more than it had a year ago.

Fitbit Versa leads the charge

“Fitbit continues to shift its focus from predominantly SmartBand/trackers to smartwatches and has now evolved as the next best player to Apple in terms of experience and scale,” said Counterpoint analyst Satyajit Sinha. “The launch of the Versa smartwatch was the turning point for Fitbit’s smartwatch segment growth.”

The Fitbit Versa, which launched in the spring, is a simpler device than even the original Apple Watch Series 1.  Still, it costs less and has a longer battery life.

In the July-to-August period, Fitbit  grabbed 16 percent of the global smartwatch market, up from 6 percent a year ago.

Apple Watch vs. Fitbit in Q3 2018.
Apple Watch vs. Fitbit in Q3 2018.
Photo: Counterpoint

Apple Watch’s LTE advantage

Fitbit faces a challenge besides Apple. A Counterpoint survey found that U.S. consumers want LTE-enabled devices. The market-research firm predicts that by end of this year, cellular-capable watches will make up  20 percent of global smartwatch shipments.

This is a feature that’s available in both Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4. Fitbit has yet to announce an LTE-enabled device.