Health

Activity trackers outselling smartwatches four to one (report)

Fitbit's Flex bands.

Above: Fitbit's Flex bands.

Image Credit: Fitbit

Despite all the talk about smartwatches — both the real and the hoped-for — activity trackers like FitBit are way more popular in the real world.

Activity tracker shipments reached 2.35 million during the first quarter of 2014, according to new numbers from ABI Research.

The best-selling fitness wearables come from Fitbit, which leads by a wide margin, followed by devices from Garmin, Nike, and Jawbone. But ABI believes Samsung’s Gear Fit will prove to have challenged Fitbit’s dominance during the second quarter, when those numbers become available.

Activity trackers are currently the most viable consumer electronics wearable device category, says ABI, because they have a clear use case that isn’t easily duplicated by smartphones. The functions performed by the smartwatches of today, on the other hand, can be done by smartphones, says ABI 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.”

ABI says smartwatch sales dropped significantly in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, due in small part to the seasonal effect of Christmas, but largely due to the imminent launch of Samsung’s Gear smartwatches and Gear Fit activity tracker.

Smartwatches are still evolving and should be considered a nascent category, Spenser says.

“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,” Spenser said.

ABI Research expects 10 million activity trackers and 7 million smartwatches to be shipped in 2014.