The wearable tech market soared in the 4th quarter with an 82% growth rate, thanks to hearables.
Global wearable device shipments reached 336.5 million in 2019, IDC research found. The bulk of this growth comes from the fourth quarter, which reached a new high of 118.9 million devices shipped, or an 82% growth rate.
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In September 2019, IDC predicted that hearables would be the new wearables. According to IDC's latest data in its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report, this prediction holds true: More than half (55%) of the growth of wearables was attributed to hearables.
IDC defined hearables as "the wearables that hang on or plug into the ear. The device must operate wirelessly and provide stereo sound while also including at least one of the following features: Track health/fitness, modify audio, provide language translation on the device, or enable smart assistants at the touch of a button or through hotword detection."
Many tech giants have jumped on the hearable train, including Apple with the Airpods Pro, Amazon with Echo Buds, Android with Galaxy Buds, Microsoft with Surface Earbuds, and Google with Pixel Buds, cutting the cord as phone manufacturers eliminate the headphone jack.
Other popular wearable categories included watches (37% year-over-year growth) and wristbands (22% year-over-year growth). Wrist-worn devices captured nearly 49% of the total market, down from 70% last year.
Regardless of this decline, the wearables market grew by 89% in 2019, the report found.
Top 5 wearable companies in 2019
The report identified the following top five wearable companies of 2019, based on shipment volume, market share, and year-over-year growth.
Apple led the way with 43.4 million units shipped in Q4 of 2019 alone, mainly due to the upgraded AirPods, new AirPods Pro, and latest Apple Watch, as well as its partnership with Beats, the report found.
Coming in last was Fitbit, which actually saw a slight increase after two years of regression. Still relying on fitness trackers, its smart watches did reach a record six million units shipped, after the release of the Versa 2 and discounted Versa Lite and Ionic.
Watches reached 92.4 million units shipped in 2019, which was up 23% from the 75.3 million units in 2018. According to the report, 2019 was the first time Apple's annual market share dipped below 40%, hitting 29%, while Huawei and Samsung gained popularity.
Earwear had the best year by far, shipping 170.5 million units worldwide and seeing 250% growth from shipments in 2018, the report found. With so many shipments occurring at the end of 2019, the popularity can be expected to continue into 2020.
For more, check out Ear-worn devices are the next wearables battleground, IDC says on ZDNet.
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