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Finally, that tech fad's over: Smartwatch sales tank more than 50%

Apple still rules the roost – but it's not a popular perch

The latest figures on smartwatch shipments have shown a dramatic decline in interest among consumers.

Analyst house IDC reported a 51.6 per cent drop in smartwatch sales, with just 2.7 million wrist-mounted computers shipped in the third quarter of the year, compared to 5.6 million over the same period last year. Apple and Lenovo both suffered a 70+ per cent fall in sales.

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

"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."

Fitness is still king, and the only vendor to show serious growth was Garmin, which saw sales of its sporty smartwatches rise 324 per cent over the year, taking it to second place in vendor shipments with 20 per cent of the market. That's a ray of sunshine for the firm, which has seen its commercial GPS market severely shrunken with the popularity of smartphones.

Apple still dominates the smartwatch market, with over 41 per cent of units shipped. Samsung saw sales rise just 9 per cent to hold onto third place, while Pebble – arguably the firm that kicked off the smartwatch craze – saw sales decline 54.1 per cent to just 100,000 units and barely 3 per cent of the market.

"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, aging devices to satisfy customers."

Apple's latest Watch incarnation could spur the market, although it's not clear if the new designs will generate that much demand. Google slowing Android Wear updates is potentially more serious, since that operating system powers a large chunk of available models.

But taking into account the results for the second quarter of the year, where shipments fell 32 per cent, it does appear that the demand for wrist-candy is on the wane. While there are some people willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a wrist-mounted screen for their smartphone, most people don't seem enthused by the concept.

Apple is reportedly already closing down some of the pop-up kiosks set up to flog its Watch gizmo, and it was notable that Google barely mentioned the technology in its huge new-product splurge earlier this month. While shipments in the low millions might continue, mass-market credibility may never come for the technology. ®

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