While there is lots of talk about smartwatches, sales of fitness tracking wearables are outselling wristwear of higher intelligence by 4 to 1.
Roughly 2.3 million of the fitness devices were sold in the first quarter, compared to just more than a half million smartwatches, according to new market data from ABI Research.
“Activity trackers are currently the most viable consumer electronics wearable device category, because they have a clear use case that cannot be matched by smartphones, in contrast to smartwatches,” says ABI Research senior practice director Nick Spencer. “End users have been happy to ditch their watches and use smartphones to tell the time, so extending smartphone functions to the watch is a weak use case and retrograde step.”
Of course, the landscape could change significantly this year, with Apple expected to join the watch market in October and Google powering a new crop of Android Wear smartwatches from LG, Motorola and others. Google is expected to have more to say on the Android Wear front at this month’s I/O developer conference in San Francisco.
Thus far, the smartwatch arena has been led by Samsung and Sony, followed by upstart Pebble. On the fitness side, Fitbit leads the pack, followed by Garmin, Nike and Jawbone.
On the watch side, the first quarter saw a drop following the holidays and amid the pending launch of Samsung’s new crop of watches including the Gear 2 and Gear Fit, while the holidays saw lots of the original Gear watch sold in combination with Samsungs’s Galaxy Note 3. Meanwhile, that original Gear has been selling for a steep discount on clearance sites such as Woot.com.
“We shouldn’t dismiss smartwatches, which are an evolving and, if you believe in reincarnation, a nascent category,” Spencer said in a statement. “Smartwatches will develop rapidly in 2014 and 2015, with hybrid activity tracker/smartwatches soon to hit the market, more specialized components being developed and most importantly the use case improving through a growing applications ecosystem.”
ABI forecasts that 10 million activity trackers and 7 million smartwatches will ship this year.