What just happened? Lots of industries have been hit hard during the Covid-19 pandemic, but some have benefitted from the situation. Aside from the obvious areas such as streaming and gaming, one somewhat surprising market that's seen a rise in sales is smartwatches, which grew 20 percent year-on-year in Q1.

According to a new report from market research firm Strategy Analytics, 13.7 million smartwatches were shipped in the first quarter of the year, up from 11.4 million in Q1 2019.

As per usual, it was Apple that dominated. Its smartwatches took a 55 percent share of the market, having sold 7.6 million units. That's up from 6.2 million during the same period last year when it had a 54 percent share.

Despite seeing its shipments go up from 1.7 million to 1.9 million, second-place Samsung's market share fell from 15 percent to 14 percent. It was followed by Garmin with 1.1 million shipments and an 8 percent share of the market---the first time it has taken the number three position in two years.

So, why have smartwatch shipments gone up when so many other industries, including smartphones, airlines, and vehicles, have suffered during the crisis? Strategy Analytics senior analyst Steven Waltzer puts it down to their health features. "Smartwatches are selling well through online retail channels, while many consumers have been using smartwatches to monitor their health and fitness during virus lockdown," he wrote.

Manufacturer Shipments Q1 2020 Market Share Shipments Q1 2019 YoY Shipments Change
Apple 7.6 million 55% 6.2 million +23%
Samsung 1.9 million 14% 1.7 million +11.7%
Garmin 1.1 million 8% 0.8 million +38%

The sales are from January through March, which is when many lockdowns were only just beginning, so the Q2 figures are expected to be sluggish, but Strategy Analytics believes things will recover in the second half of the year when stores reopen, and more consumers purchase the wearables for health-monitoring reasons.

"Smartwatches continue to have excellent long-term prospects, as younger and older people will become more health-conscious in a post-virus world," wrote analyst Woody Oh (via TechCrunch). "Smartwatches can monitor vital health signs, such as oxygen levels, and consumers may find comfort in having a virtual health assistant strapped to their wrist."