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Fitness bands outselling all other wearables, including Apple Watch, research finds

Despite devices like the Apple Watch nominally being able to do more, dedicated fitness bands are vastly outselling other wearables in the U.S., according to a research report published on Wednesday.

Fitbit's smartwatch-like Blaze tracker.

Fitbit's smartwatch-like Blaze tracker.


Three out of four wearables owned by Americans are fitness trackers, said Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. The wearables market is still comparatively small however, as only 12.2 percent of Kantar's American survey group owned any such device.

Fitbit, makers of products like the Blaze and the Charge HR, controlled 61.7 percent of the U.S. install base. The Apple Watch held just 6.8 percent.

In fact, in a two-month period ending with March 2016, Fitbit reportedly achieved over 50 percent of wearable sales, with Apple and Garmin coming a distant second and third, respectively.

The balance of power was more even in four European markets surveyed —France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy —although just 6.6 percent of people owned a wearable. Fitbit controlled 18.5 percent of the install base, followed by Apple at 14 percent, and Samsung at 11.6.

Kantar suggested that brand, ease of use, and functionality were the top criteria people used when picking out a wearable, relegating design and even cost to lesser concerns. While Apple is one of the world's best-known brands, most fitness trackers are not only cheaper than the Apple Watch but intentionally simpler in function and interface, meant only to check things like steps, heartrate, or the time.

In a recent interview, Fitbit CEO James Park argued that Apple was taking the wrong approach to wearables by launching a "computing platform," and thereby making things more complicated. Most smartwatch makers, he said, are trying to cram in every possible feature since people still don't know what the products are good for.

Apple has yet to reveal sales numbers for the Watch, although CEO Tim Cook did claim that the product sold more units in its first year than the iPhone did in 2007, and that March quarter sales met expectations.