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Analysts have no idea if smartwatches are dying or not

Published Nov 6th, 2016 9:00AM EST
Smartwatch sales

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Gather round children, for I have a tale of two analytics companies. One says that smartwatch shipments plummeted by over 50 percent last year, while the other claims that sales are up by 60 percent in the same time period. All is not well in the land of spreadsheets.

Last week, an IDC report claimed that smartwatch shipments had gone down by 50 percent over the last year. A lot of the drop in shipments was due to a 70 percent decrease in Apple Watch sales, likely due to the impending Apple Watch 2 announcement.

But in a report issued this week, rival firm Canalys has Apple’s market share up, Samsung in a firm second place (much better than IDC), and Fitbit rounding out the top three.

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Overall, Canalys has the market for smartwatches up by 60 percent. The biggest difference is Samsung’s second place in the Canalys report, with 18 percent market share. In IDC’s table, Samsung is on 14 percent and Garmin is up to 20. Fitbit doesn’t even feature on IDC’s report, but it’s at 17 percent in Canalys’s numbers.

I think I have some idea of what’s going on here. Canalys has a broader definition of the smartwatch market that includes more fitness-band style devices. It may also be better at researching freebie bundles, where smartwatches of some kind are given away with a phone when buying a cell contract. Samsung is particularly partial to doing that, which would explain Samsung’s higher-placed finished.

But even so, methodology differences wouldn’t explain a shift from a 50 percent decrease to a 60 percent increase. Predicting markets, especially those in their first few years of growth, is always tricky. Without better data, we will continue to have no idea if smartwatches are the next big thing or last year’s flop.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

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