Smartwatch Sales Collapse – Bad News for Wearables?

Smartwatch sales have fallen by 51.6% in the latest IDC data report. And this comes on the heels of a 32% decline in the previous quarter. There’s bad news across the board, but especially for Apple which saw its sales plummet by 71%. Apple is still the leader in this segment of the Wearables market with 41% of overall sales.

Of course, there are mitigating factors here. Apple’s new Watch Series 2 only came out at the end of the quarter. And Android Wear 2.0 has been delayed by Google until next year. But the only company that could break out the champagne was Garmin, which saw its devices jump to second place with a 324% increase.

Smartwatch sales predictions

The original predictions in the press a few years back were heady stuff. Smartwatch sales would take off with sharp annual increases in the rate of adoption.

SmartWatch Sales Predictions

But this year hasn’t turned out so well. The Apple Watch was originally marketed as a lifestyle device with a strong emphasis on fashion. But the consumer market for wearables is focused on health and fitness – which is why Fitbit has been so successful. As a result, even Apple has shifted its marketing to focus more on the fitness features in the Apple Watch. As The Verge put it,

Let’s call it what it is: a fitness tracker.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is exactly that. It’s what Apple had resisted calling its wearable for the past year and a half, even declining to categorize it as such when citing industry rankings, opting for the “smartwatch” category instead. It is, definitely, still a smartwatch. But the Watch now has focus, and that’s a good thing.

And let’s call it what it really is – a very expensive and elegant fitness tracker.

If there’s an early lesson here, wearables with focus will be the most successful. Our Smartphones are Swiss Army knives, devices that let us do nearly everything we can do with technology. And even things we cannot do with our laptops. But a successful wearable in this early market will be a narrow device, one with clearly defined purposes.

The future of Wearables

New wearables may seem irresistible but the real test is their essentiality in our daily lives. I’ll return home if I forgot my phone, but I can get through the day without my Watch. The one is a necessity. The other just nice to have. In adding GPS and opening the device to the third-party developers, Apple is trying to make the Watch more essential. But of course, Apple has the resources to fail their way to success. Don’t expect other companies to be so fortunate.

Taking the long perspective, the IDC data is not bad news but a cautionary note. Take predictions with an open mind and a skeptical eye. When it comes to incorporating emerging technology into your organization, strategic planning can be a mystic’s art. Peter Drucker said it best and it applies to wearables,

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

We are moving toward a world where our technology is no longer on our desks, or in our hands, but on our bodies. That has always been our inspiration for founding Digital Bodies. But as is always the case with technology, the path to get there is never a straight line. 

Wearables, emerging technology and planning