Apple Watch clocks up 7 million shipments in slap on the wrist for wearable rivals

New research suggests the Apple Watch is now by far the most popular smartwatch on the market.

Apple was the only smartwatch vendor to pass 300,000 units in the third quarter of this year, Canalys said. Image: Apple
In just six months Apple has shipped more Apple Watches than all its rival smartwatch makers combined have managed in over a year.

Before the Apple Watch's availability in late April, most expected the device to lead the smartwatch category -- although analysts' estimates for its sales ranged widely between 10 million and 30 million a year.

The Apple Watch has met the expectation that it will lead its category and is now by far the most popular smartwatch on the market, according to research firm Canalys, which estimates Apple has shipped seven million devices in six months.

Of course, Apple doesn't specify how many Watches it has sold but it revealed in an SEC filing that it earned at least $1.7bn from Watch sales in the first five months of their availability.

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Canalys notes that Apple was the only smartwatch vendor to breach 300,000 units in the third quarter, with Pebble trailing at 200,000 units for the quarter. Xiaomi, whose first ultra-affordable wearable arrived in June last year, has shipped 10 million wearables to date.

Apple might be crushing the competition by volume, but rivals argue the Watch is simply expanding the overall market for wearables.

Fitbit this week reported 168 percent year-on-year revenue growth in its third-quarter earnings, with CEO James Park telling investors that the Apple Watch had "no material impact" on the company's growth. Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky said the same yesterday, boasting to CNBC it was selling twice the amount of smartwatches as it had last year.

The focus for all wearable makes now falls on the crucial holiday season, which will see new smartwatch entrants from Fossil and Tag Heuer.

Tag Heuer, the biggest watch brand owned by French luxury company LVMH, is unveiling its $1,800 Intel-powered Android Wear device next Monday.

Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of LVMH, told CNBC the company was concerned by its price tag but was "reassured" because Apple proved smartwatches could be sold at the luxury end of the market, a point further backed up by Apple's teaming up with Hermes to sell Watch bands.

Canalys analysts expect Apple to continue its momentum with the Watch through the holiday season, having ironed outs its supply-constraint issues, expanded its international channel distribution network, and released watchOS 2.

Whether the Apple Watch sales will receive a lift from holiday gift-giving remains to be seen. A study by Best Buy, a key Apple Watch reseller for the US, found the iPad was top of the wish list this Christmas while the Watch ranked 12th, trailing behind the MacBook, Microsoft's Surface, and Fitbit Charge.

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