The big picture: Apple continues to dominate in the smartwatch market thanks in no small part to the Apple Watch SE and the company's focus on making the Apple Watch an integral part of the Apple ecosystem. Google wants to leverage its Fitbit acquisition and help from Samsung to challenge the wearables powerhouse while consumer appetite is still strong. Whether or not it can succeed in redeeming the Wear OS ecosystem is anyone's guess.
The latest market report from Counterpoint Research shows global smartwatch shipments increased a healthy 35 percent year-over-year for the three months ending in March, indicating that consumer demand for this category is still strong. At the same time, the market saw further consolidation among the top brands, which is only going to accelerate after the recent merger between Google's Wear OS and Samsung's Tizen OS.
The Apple Watch remains a bright spot, as it captured a third of the total shipments for smartwatches in the first quarter of this year. In the same period of last year, it stood at 30.3 percent market share, so we're talking about a modest year-over-year increase. Counterpoint's Sujeong Lim says Apple has continued its growth thanks to the strong demand for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the timely introduction of the Watch SE.
Samsung, who has been second only to Apple in the smartwatch market for years, saw its shipments grow 27 percent YoY, mainly fueled by the popularity of the Galaxy Watch 3 and the Galaxy Watch Active. However, the South Korean tech giant lost some market share during Q1 2021 as it doesn't have an equivalent mid-range offering to go against the Apple Watch SE.
Wear OS and Tizen also saw slight losses in market share, but Google and Samsung recently announced they're bringing the two platforms together. The companies are joining forces to create one general smartwatch OS for the Android platform, hoping to stimulate developers to create more apps and making the Wear OS ecosystem stronger.
Google already owns Fitbit and is planning to use its experience with fitness wearables and telemedicine. In essence, it is the consolidation of three ecosystems -- Fitbit, Tizen, and Wear OS. Separately, they saw relatively modest adoption and brought in less profit when compared to Apple Watch.
It will be interesting to see if bringing them together will be enough to sway more consumers towards Wear OS, but that will depend mainly on Google treating it as an integral part of the Android experience rather than an optional extension of it.