Worldwide shipments of wearable devices reached 153.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 (4Q20), a year-over-year increase of 27.2% according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDC). Shipments for the full year grew 28.4% to 444.7 million units. While the holiday quarter was largely driven by new devices and lower prices, the broader trend for 2020 was the surge in consumer spending for electronics as disposable income was reallocated from leisure activities during the pandemic. And in this environment, Apple led the market once again with 36.2% share of 4Q20 shipments.
Its Watch shipments rose 45.6% thanks to the appeal of three models with different price points (Series 6, Watch SE, Series 3).
Hearables shipments also surged during the quarter although year-over-year growth slowed to 22%, down from 28% and 29% in the previous two quarters. The slowing growth reflects the huge amount of adoption that the market has seen in recent quarters.
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Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers: "While the shift in spending along with new products and typical seasonality were at play during the fourth quarter, the pandemic has also been good for the market as it has put health and fitness at the forefront of many consumers’ minds. In-home fitness programs are quickly becoming a crucial component of the wearables offering for many companies. Beyond that, the proliferation of health sensors such as skin temperature, ECG, and heart rate tracking are allowing users and health professionals to better understand the onset and tracking of diseases."
However, growth has not been even across the wearables market as some companies and products were affected by the global semiconductor shortage. Most notably, wristbands declined 17.8% during the quarter and accounted for just 11.5% of all wearable devices shipped. Hearables* were the largest category of devices with 64.2% share of shipments, followed by watches with 24.1% share.
Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Wearables Team: "2020 was the year that hearables became the must-have device. Hearables provided a new degree of privacy, particularly during home quarantine but also while out in public. Meeting that demand was a long list of vendors with an equally long list of devices, spanning the range of feature sets and price points. Underpinning the hearables market was a constantly shifting competitive landscape, with companies slowly gaining a foothold in the market (Amazon and its Echo Buds and Frames), vendors introducing new form factors (Apple and AirPods Max), and new features making their way down the price curve, including automatic noise cancelling and voice assistant capability." For information about Apple's competitors, read the full IDC report.