IDC: Apple still owns the wearable and ‘hearable’ markets — updated

Apple’s year-over-year growth was nearly 200%.

From an International Data Corporation research report that landed on my desktop Monday:

Global shipments of wearable devices totaled 84.5 million units in the third quarter of 2019 (3Q19), a year-over-year increase of 94.6% and a new record for shipments in a single quarter, according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Most of the growth in demand for wearables was driven by new products in the hearables market. Hearables alone accounted for almost half the market in 3Q19, followed by wrist bands and smartwatches.

“Hearables have become the new go-to product for the wearables market,” pointed out Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables Team. “This began with multiple vendors removing the headphone jack from their smartphones, driving the move toward wireless headphones. It continued with hearables incorporating additional features that either augment or expand the audio experience. Next, hearables have taken on multiple form factors – ranging from truly wireless to over-the-ear headphones – appealing to a broad base of earwear user preferences. Finally, prices have come down significantly, with some reaching below $20.”

Wearables Company Highlights

Apple captured the top position thanks to the growing popularity of the Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones. Looking ahead, the price reduction on the Series 3 Watch as well as the launch of AirPods Pro leaves Apple in a strong position to maintain dominance in this market for the short term.

Xiaomi‘s popular Mi Band lineup shipped more than 10 million units during the quarter and the company was able to significantly expand its global reach by targeting countries in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region.

Samsung‘s new watches and hearables (both self-branded as well as JBL-branded) captured 9.8% of the market. To date, the company has been able to successfully bundle its smartwatches and Galaxy buds with its smartphones and this strategy has paid off as many carriers around the world helped promote Samsung’s lineup.

Despite political challenges, Huawei ranked fourth globally thanks to a strong performance in its home country of China. Within its borders, Huawei grew 188% year over year, making it one of the fastest growing companies in China. In the rest of the world, Huawei maintained strong growth though shipment volume was much lower as roughly 80% of its shipments were concentrated in China.

Fitbit rounded out the top five and the company’s latest wearables and watches have been well received though it still struggled to grow during the quarter. The latest news regarding its acquisition by Google fills the brand’s future with uncertainty.

Cue the spreadsheet:

idc wearables hearables apple

My take: It can’t be fun playing catch-up to Apple in these markets.

UPDATE: Above Avalon‘s Neil Cybart calls BS on IDC’s estimates…

Upon closer examination, IDC estimates look highly questionable. For example, the industry research firm had Apple shipping (same thing as sales) 29.5M wearable devices in CY3Q19. That estimate looks way off. In reality, Apple shipped closer to 15M wearable devices during the quarter. For IDC to be that far off with its Apple estimate makes me question the accuracy of every other estimate found in the report.


  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    Apple’s Apple Watch and Air Pods require iPhone integration, just as Android versions of competing products require an Android smartphone integration to function.

    Coming in #2 to Apple’s leading position, Xiaomi shipped less than half the units as did Apple. Given that iPhone worldwide market share hovers around 15% to 20% Apple’s Hearables and Wearables market share, relative to required supporting platform base, is far greater than IDC’s report suggests.

    It would appear then that devices built for the Android platform, despite significant price discount in comparison to Apple products, are not finding favor among Android users.

    This report supports my contention hat Jun Zhang’s production and price target estimates are the equal to a very large pile of horse shit. In fact it could be argued that a pile of horse at least has value as manure while Zhang’s estimates do not.

    December 10, 2019
  2. Turley Muller said:
    Those numbers are RIDICULOUS. If Apple’s unit sales really tripled, then ASP’s would have to decline close to 50%. That’s laughable.

    December 10, 2019
  3. Michael Thompson said:
    ‘Apple can’t innovate under Tim Cook. He’s simply an operations and inventory manager.’

    Our entire business and operations have never run better and we’ve never had a better “manager” than Tim Cook.

    The best is yet to come for long-term holders. The detractors come and go, but we continue to get more wealthy.

    December 10, 2019
  4. Fred Stein said:
    Looking at Xiaomi’s site, they have Apple Watch clones which run MiUI, their OS Skin over Android, and other ‘band’ style and round watches, well below $100. Those surely don’t run MiUI. Even ignoring doubts about IDC’s numbers, Xiaomi’s share of platform level smart watch (running MiUI) is far less than 12%. Samsung in third place runs their own Gear OS.

    It’s over. Apple Watch / Watch OS won.

    December 10, 2019

Leave a Reply