Android Wear boosts smartwatch shipments but Apple Watch approaches

Five million smart bands were shipped in the last quarter, with Samsung leading the pack.

moto360a-620x
The Moto 360. Image: Motorola

Nearly five million smartwatches and fitness bands were shipped in the third quarter of this year as Android Wear devices began to hit the market.

According to market watchers Canalys, smartwatch unit shipments increased 37 percent quarter-on-quarter thanks to the rise of devices using Wear, Google's extension of Android for wearables.

Motorola Mobility's Moto 360 was "by far" the most successful of the initial Android Wear devices, Canalys said, accounting for over 15 percent of what it describes as the 'smart band' market.

It's still early days for smartwatches: while vendors are keen to build them, consumers are less convinced they want to wear them. There's some nascent interest among developers, and some early apps are emerging for the devices .

"Despite being supply-constrained, [the Moto 360's] appealing design helped it to easily out-ship other Android Wear products," Canalys said.

But it is Samsung that remained the overall smartwatch market leader, having developed six different devices since the recent attempt to make the form-factor a success began.

Canalys said that Android Wear will be fundamental to the development of the smartwatch market "as it is poised to be one of the two dominant wearable operating systems outside of China, alongside Apple’s Watch OS". Canalys has previously predicted that the Apple Watch will account for the majority of smart band shipments in 2015.

But the analyst said the announcement of the Apple Watch late in the quarter is likely to have an effect on sales of existing devices, as some consumers will choose to wait for the arrival of Apple's device, due to go on sale early next year.

Fitbit and Jawbone held onto their first and second place positions in the 'basic band' or fitness band market. Garmin passed Nike to take third place in shipments, while Xiaomi and Huawei also overtook the one-time market leader.

"Low-end basic bands providing simple activity tracking functionality are becoming increasingly commoditized, and will flood the market heading into the holidays, especially in China," said Canalys analyst Jingwen Wang. "To combat this, Fitbit, Jawbone and others have attempted to make basic bands smarter, adding various smart watch features and increasing the sophistication and integration of sensors."

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