The first quarter of 2020 proved challenging for the consumer tech sector as lockdowns prompted many to defer their luxury purchases. Except, it seems, in the smartwatch segment, where shipments actually rose year-on-year by double digits.
The sector delivered 14.3 million smartwatches globally in Q1 2020, an increase of 12 per cent year-on-year, according to analyst Canalys.
Apple, which occupies 36.3 per cent of the segment, predictably remained on top with 5.2 million units shipped over the three months. Still, these fall short of the figures for 2019, where the company shipped 6 million smartwatches, a decline of 13 per cent.
Tailing the fruity firm is Huawei, which saw year-on-year growth of 113 per cent, with shipments soaring from 1 million in Q1 2019 to 2.1 million in Q1 2020. Of course, Huawei has long bundled pre-orders of its flagship phones with a complementary smartwatch to sweeten the pot. It's therefore likely that these shipment figures aren't entirely driven by organic consumer decisions.
While Samsung and Garmin both managed to achieve double-digit shipment growth, soaring 46 and 39 per cent respectively, likely Google acquisition Fitbit struggled, with shipments dropping 21 per cent to 0.9 million.
Part of the problem is that basic fitness wearables still represent a good chunk of Fitbit's lineup. These cheaper devices have suffered several straight quarters of decline, while more complicated smartwatch products have won consumer favour.
Fitbit is also somewhat of an industry outlier. Samsung and Garmin have built upon Google's Wear OS foundations, but Fitbit maintains its own software ecosystem. While this comes with certain advantages (with Fitbit having a monopoly on mobile payments via its wearables), it does mean that users are unable to take advantage of the wider developer enthusiasm for Wear OS.
Google has declared its intent to acquire Fitbit for $2.1bn and the deal is expected to close later this year subject to approval from regulators.
Analysts from ABI Research expect the smartwatch and fitness wearable sectors to prove relatively resilient to the onslaught of COVID-19 due to their health-focused nature. Modern devices can track metrics like oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and other pertinent stats. ®