Everyone is struggling to sell you smartwatches… except Garmin

I wear a smartwatch, but it is far from a necessity, and tellingly people who I know own one seem to be wearing them less and less often. With that in mind, it’s possible that we’re close to market saturation at a surprisingly low point for something that was often pitched as the next big thing.

Everyone is struggling to sell you smartwatches… except Garmin

Market intelligence firm IDC has demonstrated the market stagnation, and it’s bad news for almost everyone. Overall smartwatch shipments are down 51.6% year on year for the third quarter of 2016, but market leaders Apple are hit particularly hard, with Apple Watch sales dropping 71.6%, despite their 41.3% market share.

Some of that can be explained away by the fact that the Apple Watch Series Two was released at the tail end of that period, and you’d expect a certain number of people holding out for the newer version, but it feels like this is part of a more troubling trend for companies who bet the farm on wearables.

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That’s certainly part of the view of Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC Mobile Device Trackers, who said that it has “become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone”. Part of the problem is that the majority of smartwatches just don’t offer anything significant over the smartphone they need to be tethered to. “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,” Ubrani added.

If you’re working on wearables and considering going back to the drawing board, consider fitness tracking as your USP. If there’s one beacon of hope for the sector, it comes in the form of Garmin, where sales have increased a whopping 324% over the last year, meaning the company suddenly finds itself in second place with a market share of 20.5%.

It was just Garmin and Samsung that reported year-on-year growth, and the latter’s was a considerably less eye-catching 9%, placing them in third position with 14.4% of the market. Trailing Samsung are Lenovo (3.4%) and Pebble (3.2%) who suffered a year-on-year decline of 73.3% and 27.2% respectively. All other smartwatch manufacturers come to 17.2% of the market, and cumulatively suffered a 27.2% year-on-year decline. Ouch.

Image: Intel Free Press, used under Creative Commons

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