Wearables go hybrid as smart watches, fitness trackers merge

Following the playbook of the PC industry, wearable companies such as Fitbit, Garmin and Fossil are moving toward hybrid smart watches that capture most of the fitness features.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Fitness trackers are out. Smart watches are in. And soon both devices are going to blend together similar to what happened with PCs and tablets and the barrage of 2-in-1 devices.

Welcome to the ever-shifting world of wearables and the market is coming around to the well-worn watch form factor.


And these developments all happen just a few days before Apple is likely to outline Apple Watch enhancements.

Clearly, fitness trackers and smart watches are going to merge. The secret sauce for each device maker will be balancing the fitness, watch, notification and app functionality. For what it's worth, I'm a Garmin Fenix fan because I'm more about the fitness and sports and turn the notifications off. A text or email on your wrist is a nice to have feature for other folks. For me, these notifications are annoying.

Best wearable tech of 2017

And just as these hybrid devices emerge, IDC released data that highlights the shift. Fossil, which bought Misfit, is now No. 5 in wearable devices. Fossil has mixed fitness and function throughout its product line.

IDC's pecking order goes like this:

  • Xiaomi: Low cost devices, kids' devices and smart shoes. Xiaomi is looking at clothes too even though its Mi Band is the most popular.
  • Apple: The company has made the Apple Watch more relevant has fitness as its purpose. IDC noted that Apple has been expanding its reach among health insurers.
  • Fitbit: In transition, but needs an identity in smart watch market.
  • Garmin: Focused on high-end advanced smart watches and health and fitness.
  • Fossil. Bringing fitness features and smart watches to the masses.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the IDC data is that more than 51 percent of the wearable market is controlled by others. The market is splintered and the fitness tracker to smart watch transition may not be the last.

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