Global smartwatch shipments grew 12%, in spite of…everything

Wearables have proven to be a surprisingly resilient category amid the global COVID-19-fueled shutdown. As noted earlier this month, shipment growth slowed — but didn’t stop — in Q1, even as many potential customers have far fewer steps to track. And according to new numbers from Canalys out today, smartwatches in particular continued to grow in spite of it all.

Overall, the category grew 12% year-over-year for Q1, up to 14.3 million. China, in particular, saw a big uptick in shipments — a full 66% over Q1 2019. Cellular models from Xiaomi and Apple were big hits, owing to a nationwide push for eSIM adoption. North America continued to see an increase, as well, but made up less than a third of all shipments for the first time in the firm’s reporting.

Image Credits: Canalys

Apple actually saw a 13% dip in shipments for the quarter, but remained the leader in market share by a significant margin, at 36.3%. Analysts believe that a shift in focus toward AirPods has been part of the slowdown for the company in North America and Europe. Second place Huawei is gaining fast, too. A 113% increase in shipments put the company at 14.9% of the total market — up from 7.9% the year prior. Huawei continues to have a strong presence in China, and other local electronics giants Xiaomi and Oppo are expected to be strong drivers in the category moving forward.

Beyond that, the report doesn’t go into great detail with regard to what continued driving smartwatch sales, as categories like smartphones sputtered along. I suspect that while consumers have been put off by an inability to meet personal activity goals, an increased interest in vital signs and other quantifiable statistics has driven some to take a closer look at such products, as they become an increasingly viable tool for day-to-day health tracking.