Growing impressively and slowing down too

There are two ways to look at the wearables market in India in Q1 2020. On the one hand, there were 4.2 million wearables shipped in Q1 2020, which represented a staggering 80.6 percent rise as compared to this time last year. On the other hand, however, if you compare Q1 2020 with Q4 2019, shipments actually went down by 17.9 percent. This is the first time wearable shipments have declined on a quarter by the quarter basis in almost two years. Supplies issues from China caused by the COVID crisis and the lockdown in the Indian market from around mid-March are being blamed for this.

It’s all in the ears – explosive “earwear” growth

The growth in wearables year on year was driven by what IDC calls “earwear” (basically earphones or headphones with some additional features – see the last point). This segment grew by a staggering 289.2 percent year on year and accounted for 3.0 million of the 4.2 million wearables shipped in the quarter.

‘ear, ‘ear: Samsung got rocked by boAt

In the earwear segment, the leader might surprise some – it is an Indian brand boAt, which has a 23.9 percent market share (close to a million units). Samsung is a close second with 23.6 percent market share, but this includes shipments from Samsung, Infinity, and JBL brands! However, the two taken together account for almost half of the Indian earwear shipments. That is some dominance when you consider that this segment has the likes of Sony, Noise, Jabra, Philips, and a quite few others.

Truly, truly wireless earphones are growing

The most impressive growth was recorded by the truly wireless earphones (TWS) segment, which grew by a staggering 300.7 percent year on year and now contributes 23.1 percent of what IDC terms the “earwear” category.

Galaxy Buds beat Airpods

Think the AirPods rule TWS? Not in India as per the IDC report. According to it, Samsung leads in the segment with a very impressive 29.8 percent market share, with Apple being second with 15.7 percent. Samsung’s share is being attributed in a large part to the launch of the Galaxy Buds Plus. Interestingly, the report seems to indicate that Samsung and Apple account for almost 45.5 percent of the TWS shipments. Impressive, but we think this could take a hit in the coming quarters this year with both Realme and Xiaomi targeting this segment!

Wristbands take a hit

Wristbands however had a very rough quarter. They not only witnessed a year on year decline of 28 percent but also a quarter on quarter decline of 33.5 percent. Supply constraints from China are believed to have accounted for this. Also, as per IDC, with a number of people working from home and having limited physical activity, the usage of watches and fitness bands in India “has drastically come down.” The watches do seem to be growing, though (see a later point).

Xiaomi leads the band, Goqii moves up

Xiaomi still bosses the wristband segment with a 41.9 percent share even though its year on year shipments declined by 39.3 percent. In an interesting development, Goqii overtook Titan to take second place, with 13.6 percent market share. In essence, that means Xiaomi ships three times as many fitness bands as number two.

Watch out, watches are growing – Amazfit has numbers, Apple has the apps

Smartwatches recorded an impressive year on year growth of 43.3 percent in the quarter. The leading players were: Huami’s Amazfit – 22.4 percent share Fossil – 17.9 percent Apple – 17.7 percent Apple, however, continued to be the leader in what IDC described as “watches which can run third-party applications on the device itself.” As most of Fossil’s smartwatches run on Wear OS, we can assume, they are not too far behind.

The COVID impact – not an easy road ahead

IDC states that Covid-19 has slowed down the growth of wearables in India. And that this impact “is expected to prevail for a few more quarters.” However, it also raises hopes for a resurgence in the second half of the year and states “outlook remains positive for the year.”

One more thing: When is a “ear-worn device” a “wearable”?

IDC has offered a rather interesting perspective on when it considers an “ear-worn device” to be a wearable. As per the report: “For an ear-worn device to be considered a wearable by IDC’s definition, it must offer functionality beyond audio, like a smart assistant, health and fitness tracking, audio experience enhancement, or language translation.” We think that definition covers a significant majority of earphones at the moment as almost all of them definitely deliver some sort of “audio experience enhancement.” We are not advising IDC here, but that definition needs some work to make more sense.