Only a few months after shipping its first wearable, Apple is now the leader in the emerging global smart wearables market and within striking distance of the overall wearables market front runner.
Market researcher IDC released wearables market share numbers for the second quarter on Thursday and Apple, in typical fashion, is already the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
“In its first appearance in the wearables market, Apple finds itself within striking distance of the established market leader, Fitbit,” IDC said in a statement. Fitbit makes a popular series of fitness trackers.
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And Apple is already a leader in the highest-end segment of the market.
“Apple is the leader in smart wearables and this lead will likely continue for the remainder of the year,” IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani, wrote in an email to Foxnews.com.
Though Fitbit shipped more wearables than Apple, Fitbit’s offerings are relatively basic compared to the Apple Watch, according to the release.
Basic wearables – which don’t run third-party applications and include most fitness trackers – are expected to lose share over the next few years, likely making Apple the overall wearable leader, Urbani wrote.
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Here’s another surprise — Apple shipped 3.6 million watches in the second quarter, according to IDC. That’s more than some leading financial analysts had been forecasting. For instance, Steve Milunovich of UBS, one of the top Apple analysts, forecast only about 2 million. Apple’s number is just 0.8 million units behind Fitbit's 4.4 million units, IDC said.
IDC also expects the watchOS – the Watch’s operating system – to improve and drive more sales. At its developer conference in June, Apple said that the second version of the Watch software, WatchOS 2, will allow third-party apps to run “natively.” This means that third-party software vendors can access more features on the watch, such as the Digital Crown and heart rate sensor, and tap into new application programming interfaces, or APIs. That could boost the popularity of the Watch, similar to what the app market has done for the iPhone, IDC said.
The wearables market overall saw a burst of growth over the same period last year. Total global shipments of wearables for the quarter came to 18.1 million units, up 223.2 percent from the 5.6 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2014.
Fitbit is still thriving, despite the Apple surge. In the second quarter, it had triple-digit year-over-year worldwide volume growth and double-digit year-over-year worldwide revenue and profit growth, IDC said.
Xiaomi, as the No. 3 global supplier, has seen success in the Chinese market with the Mi Band. Samsung is the No. 5 wearable supplier. It’s seen modest success with the Gear S and Gear Fit devices, and is expected to bring out a redesigned Gear S2 next month, IDC said.
But “given Samsung's history of making its latest wearable devices compatible only with Samsung's top models and nearly exclusive reliance on Tizen (an operating system), the company has limited its potential reach,” IDC added.