The wearable industry actually posted some pretty solid numbers over the last quarter, according to a new study released this week by IDC. Carrying the headline “Wearables Aren’t Dead, They’re Just Shifting Focus,” the release notes that, in spite of some stark evidence to the contrary, companies are still shipping product in record numbers.
IDC notes a 16.9 percent increase year-over-year, bringing the total number to 33.9 million units shipped globally for Q4, up from 29 million last year. Shipments for the year, meanwhile, were up 25 percent, for a total of 102.4 million shipped worldwide for 2016.
The numbers arrive after months of news about falling smartwatch sales and struggles for some of the top names, like Fitbit and Jawbone. In 2016, Motorola announced that it was stepping away from smartwatches and Pebble simply collapsed. And then there’s Android Wear’s delay last year, which ensured that the next generation of watches for the platform wouldn’t contribute to numbers for the quarter at all.
Xiaomi contributed a healthy amount to industry growth, increasing an impressive 96.2 percent year-over-year in its second-place spot behind Fitbit, owing to its aggressive pricing, though IDC notes that the company is having a tough time gaining significant recognition outside of China.
Apple and Samsung both saw increases, owing in part to new products. In fact, Apple actually had its best quarter for wearables by IDC’s count, confirming that, if you’re Apple at least, the smartwatch isn’t dead.
Fitbit was much more of a mixed bag. The company retained its top spot, with 19.2 percent of the global market. But the company’s numbers, which also include shipments from recently acquired Pebble and Vector, experienced a steep 22.7 percent decline for the quarter, owing to saturation among U.S.-based buyers and increased competition from low-cost devices. That marks one of its biggest declines ever by IDC’s count.
The wearable maker has noted its struggles in recent months, including layoffs, but remains bullish about the industry, with plans to build a new smartwatch based on technologies from recent acquisitions.