Apple leads smartwatch industry with 50% market share

Global smartwatch shipments grew 56% annually to reach a record 18 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018

FILE PHOTO: Apple watches are seen at a new Apple store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 19, 2017.  REUTERS/John Gress/File Photo
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Technology giant Apple lost share in the global smartwatch market last year due to increased competition, but still managed to retain the lead, according to a survey.

Apple's market share of wearable devices dropped to 50 per cent in 2018, from 60.4 per cent in 2017, but the company sold about 4.8 million more watches than in the previous year. Fitbit and Samsung trailed with 12.2 and 11.8 per cent of the market share, respectively, according to figures released by Strategy Analytics on Thursday.

Global smartwatch shipments hit an all-time high of 45 million units in 2018, said Steven Waltzer, an analyst at the Boston research company.

“Smartwatch growth is soaring, as consumers seek to accessorise their smartphones and bring digital connectivity to their wrists,” said Mr Waltzer.

Tech companies are boosting investment in wearables to diversify income as demand for smartphone falls. Collectively, Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin are the four most popular brands, accounting for eight in 10 of all smartwatches shipped worldwide.

The fourth quarter of 2018 was one of the best periods for the smartwatch industry in the past few years. Global shipments grew about 56 per cent yearly, to reach a record 18 million watches during the period.

South Korea's Samsung, which launched its latest Galaxy Watch Active in San Francisco this month, is gradually gaining market share. It managed to surpass Fitbit marginally in the last quarter of 2018 with 2.4 million units shipped, 0.1 million more than its American competitor.

Samsung has good models in the pipeline for 2019, such as a Galaxy Watch Active with blood-pressure tracking, and the company is expected to perform well this year, said Mr Waltzer.

Fitbit recorded most gains as it captured nearly 13 per cent of the global market share in the last quarter of 2018, tripling from 4.3 per cent during the same period in 2017.

“Fitbit is very popular in the US market. Its smartwatches are gaining mass-appeal and its new Fitbit Care connected health platform is a useful differentiator for the brand,” said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.