Apple still bundles the Apple Watch sales in the “Other Products” category with iPods, AirPods, Beats, and Apple TVs. The Watch isn’t a huge contributor to Apple’s revenues, at least not yet. However, data from the research firm IDC show that Apple Watch has become the hottest wearable device in the market. The tech giant sold a record 8 million Watch units during the holiday quarter of 2017, says IDC. The Q4 sales were driven by Apple Watch Series 3, which debuted in September.
The Series 3 with its built-in cellular connectivity allowed the wearable device for the first time to live without being continuously tethered to an iPhone. The Q4 Apple Watch shipments rose 58% YoY to 8 million units compared to 5.1 million units in the December quarter of 2016. All other vendors together shipped 29.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017. It means the total wearable device shipments in Oct-Dec period were 37.9 million, up 8% from the same period a year prior.
The strong Apple Watch Series 3 sales helped boost Apple’s market share from 14.4% in Q4 2016 to 21% in Q4 2017. Apple’s biggest rival Fitbit saw its shipments decline from 6.5 million units in Q4 2016 to 5.4 million in Q4 2017. As a result, its market share came down from 18.5% to 14.2%. China’s Xiaomi was the third largest vendor with 4.9 million shipments and 13% market share in the latest quarter.
During the full year 2017, the Cupertino company sold 17.7 million Apple Watch units, which helped it grab 15.3% market share. Apple had sold 11.3 million units in the year 2016. On the back of 55.9% YoY growth, Apple became the world’s largest smartwatch maker. It was followed by Xiaomi with 13.6% and Fitbit with 13.3% share. Though Apple witnessed record growth in sales, the overall smartwatch market is not growing as fast as before.
According to IDC, wearable device shipments had jumped 27.3% from 2015 to 2016. But the industry growth was only 10.3% in 2017. IDC research director Ramon Llamas said the lower growth was mainly due to many vendors scaling down their wearable operations or exiting the segment. Firms like Jawbone, TomTom, Pebble, Intel, Adidas, and Nokia have either closed or scaled back their wearable businesses.
The iPhone maker doesn’t officially disclose Apple Watch shipments, which means IDC’s figures are estimates based on the research firm’s proprietary tools and processes. Though 8 million Apple Watch sales in Q4 sounds huge, it’s minuscule compared to 77.3 million iPhones sold in the same period. The company is focusing on health technology with the Watch series. Q4 2017 was the first time Apple became the market leader after lagging behind Xiaomi and Fitbit for several quarters.
IDC’s report is not the only indication that Apple Watch sales are growing rapidly. During the company’s latest quarterly earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors that the Watch sales jumped more than 50% during the holiday quarter. The wearable device witnessed strong double-digit sales growth in every geographic segment.
Last month, another research firm Canalys reported that the Apple Watch shipments were higher than the entire Swiss watch industry in Oct-Dec 2017. The combined sales of popular brands like Rolex, TAG Heuer, Swatch, Omega, and others lagged behind Apple Watch shipments. According to Canalys, Apple sold 8 million smartwatches during the quarter. Data from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry shows that the Swiss companies collectively exported 6.8 million timepieces in the same period.
Canalys says Apple Watch shipments for the full year 2017 were still lower than the Swiss watch industry (18 million vs 24 million units), but Apple is catching up fast. The Cupertino company witnessed more than 50% growth while most Swiss watchmakers saw only single-digit percentage sales growth. The Series 3 Apple Watch – which is available in a GPS and a GPS+Cellular version – is particularly popular in Japan, the US, and Australia, said Canalys.
Apple is consistently improving the Watch by adding more and more health features. With the watchOS 4.2, the company added the ability to track skiing and snowboarding activities with the Apple Watch. Using new APIs, built-in GPS, and altimeter, the Apple Watch can now track calories burned, horizontal distance, average and maximum speeds, number of runs, and vertical descent. The company will reportedly add an EKG Heart Monitor to the next-gen Apple Watch Series 4.
According to a recent patent granted to Apple by the USPTO, the tech giant could bring a wireless charging case for the Apple Watch Series 4. The charging case would work similar to the AirPods case. You have to charge the case itself and then carry it around to charge the Watch whenever it runs out of power. The patent documents do not reveal how many times you can fully charge the Watch before the case runs out of power.
The patent filing suggests that the wireless charging case would be rectangular in shape. You’ll have to remove the bands to charge the smartwatch by placing it in a designated cradle. The case will also have space for at least two pairs of Apple Watch bands. Of course, the patent is no guarantee that the Apple Watch Series 4 would come with a wireless charging case. But consumers would love such a product.