Where are wearables going in 2020?

Apple has throttled the competition in another category.

During the company’s recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook noted the company’s wearable division now rivals the size of a Fortune 500 company. He failed to give more specifics, but the point is striking: between Apple Watch and AirPods, Cupertino has another juggernaut on its hands.

Apple’s wearable fortunes come from two distinct sub-categories: more mature wrist-worn devices that include smartwatches and wearable trackers (and all of the overlap therein) and fully wireless earbuds or “hearables,” as they’re sometimes known.

I’m pulling IDC numbers from December for the latest, but these seem to mostly comport with what I’ve been seeing from firms over the past year. Apple’s on top with a little more than a third of total global market share — nearly 200 percent growth over the prior year. That’s thanks in no small part to the addition of AirPods Pro to the mix. Though getting back to Apple’s recent earnings, Cook notes that three-quarters of Apple Watch purchases in the previous quarter were by people who were buying the device for the first time. So there’s plenty of growth there, as well.

Xiaomi is at a distant number two with around 15 percent of the market. That’s still a commanding presence, as the company has expanded into new markets (mostly in Europe) with devices that undercut the competition. Samsung found success at around 10 percent of the global market with its diversification (watches, earbuds and fitness trackers), while Huawei maintained a strong presence in China with 80 percent of its total shipments in its home country as it struggles with other issues abroad.

Fitbit rounds out the top five, and we all pretty much know what happened there, right? After a few years of struggle, the company was able to right the ship to some degree by building a decent smartwatch through several acquisitions, only to be acquired by Google. Google certainly understands that, along with smartphone devices, proximity to wrists and eardrums is important for the future of Google Assistant and Android.

And that truly is what the battle is ultimately about. The price of earbuds is on a trajectory to lower at an even faster pace that wrist-worn devices. A majority of manufacturers are set to duke it out for the sub-$100 and sub-$50 categories, but Apple, Google and Samsung understand that these are products are every bit as — if not more — important as a software and ecosystem play. That’s precisely why Amazon and Microsoft are getting in on the action.

For now, there appears to be less room to compete on the smartwatch front. The next year will see manufacturers continue to explore applications that position devices as “serious” health products, moving from EKG meters and fall detection into things like sleep apnea detection, which is set to arrive on products from companies like Withings.

The earbud space is less mature, offering, perhaps, more room for success, though Apple’s already had a number of successful volleys. Between AirPods Pro and Power Beats Pro, the company manufactures easily two of the best products currently on the market.

Samsung’s offerings have been solid and available at a good price point, though the company has failed to set itself apart. Google already had one false start with the original Pixel Buds. Amazon’s Echo Buds aren’t great, but the price point is certainly solid (as of this writing, they’re listed at $90 on Amazon’s site, down from $130). And then there’s Microsoft’s bizarre Surface Buds, which are, well, bizarre.

Expect to see some promising strides in smart glasses. Google may be all about the enterprise right now, but it’s worth keeping a keen eye on startups like North and Vue as bellwethers for the future. Ditto for Mojo Vision and other companies exploring content lenses. It’s like catching a glimpse at future Apple/Google/Samsung/Microsoft products today.