Apple Watch defies rivals’ smartwatch downturn in 2020

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watchOS 7.3.1 squashes a bug inApple Watch’s Power Reserve feature.
Apple Watch shipments grew 19% last year.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple Watch shipments increased by 19% last year, according to a new report from Counterpoint Research. Those are respectable numbers. However, they look even better compared to the performance of other smartwatch makers like Samsung and Fitbit, whose shipments declined in 2020.

This trend runs counter to the trajectory seen with most other Apple products. Even smash hits like the iPhone and AirPods, which grew over time, gradually made up a smaller piece of the pie as rivals gobbled up market share. In the case of the Apple Watch, however, not only is Apple remaining No. 1 — with 33.9 million units reportedly shipped in 2020 — but it’s retaining its lead.

Huawei actually outperformed Apple in terms of year-over-year growth, primarily outside North America. Its smartwatch shipments grew by 26% in the year. However, its overall shipments hit just 11.1 million units. That’s only a third of Apple’s. Samsung came in third place with 9.1 million shipments.

“The smartwatch market is being driven by three premium brands — Apple, Samsung and Huawei,” said Sujeong Lim, a senior analyst. with Counterpoint. “We believe the [application service providers] will continue to rise over the next two to three years as these companies’ flagship models continue to lead. On the other hand, Apple’s success with its Watch SE model will likely spur others like Samsung to release similar variants, moving closer to the mass market. Over a three to four years timeframe, we see budget players like OPPO and realme gaining a significant share, intensifying overall competition and bringing down the prices.”

What’s next for Apple Watch?

The latest figures reinforce the idea that Apple is totally crushing it in the wearables sphere. Constant innovation and upgrades make Apple Watch more compelling than ever. And the 2020 release of the less-expensive Apple Watch SE, which starts at $279, likely encouraged many new users to strap on a smartwatch for the first time.

Cupertino continues to add interesting features to Apple Watch, both through hardware advances and software updates. Some, like the blood oxygen sensor in Apple Watch Series 6 and the electrocardiogram and fall-detection features added in Series 4, boost the device’s health-oriented capabilities. Rumors indicate this year’s Apple Watch Series 7 could include a game-changing blood sugar sensor.

Others upgrades seamlessly weave Apple Watch into the overall Apple ecosystem. The smartwatch can feed data (like your heart rate) to Apple Fitness+ during workouts. And soon Apple Watch will be able to unlock a wearer’s iPhone while they wear a face mask, just as it can unlock a Mac. (Apple plans to roll out that pandemic-friendly feature in iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4.)

Source: Counterpoint Research