The global smartwatch market experienced growing pains in the third quarter, with shipments dropping 51.6 percent from the same time period last year to 2.7 million, according to IDC.
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"The sharp decline in smartwatch shipment volumes reflects the way platforms and vendors are realigning," Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's wearables team, said in a statement.
Despite posting the second-largest year-over-year decline (71.6 percent) among leading vendors, Apple maintained its position as the top smartwatch vendor. It saved the release of Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 1 for the end of September, barely making the cut for the third quarter, so sales of its first-gen smartwatch made up the bulk of its Q3 shipments. Lower price points and improved experiences on its newer devices could result in a fourth quarter rebound, though, IDC says.
Meanwhile, Google's decision to defer Android Wear 2.0 "left vendors relying on older, aging devices to satisfy customers," Llamas said.
Lenovo (Motorola) suffered a 73.3 percent drop since 2015, thanks to a lack of Moto 360 and Moto 360 Sport stocks. The previous quarter also marked the first time Motorola did not introduce a new smartwatch ahead of the holiday season.
IKickstarter darling Pebble released its Pebble 2 (its first to include a heart-rate sensor) late in the third quarter. It did little to help the company, though, which saw a 54.1 percent year-over-year slump.
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Samsung and Garmin were the only two vendors to finish the third quarter higher than the year before. Samsung is still riding the wave of its aging Gear S2 wearable; it recently introduced its follow-up Bluetooth-only Gear S3, but it's not yet available.
As IDC points out, Garmin's devices focus on health and fitness, boasting apps that reflect those goals.
"It has…become evident that at present, smartwatches are not for everyone," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC mobile device trackers. "Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.
"However, moving forward, differentiating the experience of a smartwatch from the smartphone will be key and we're starting to see early signs of this as cellular integration is rising and as the commercial audience begins to pilot these devices," he added.