Apple Watch takes lead in wearables market as smartwatch sales surge

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The inclusion of cellular connectivity in Apple Watch Series 3 helped propel Apple to the top of the wearables market in the first quarter of 2018, according to market research firm IDC, a move that ousted longtime frontrunner Xiaomi.

Continuing a trend that emerged last year, smartwatch sales are outpacing those of basic wearables, or simple devices capable only of counting steps.

In its latest Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, IDC estimates wearables shipments grew 1.2 percent over the first quarter. Notably, the market for smart devices like Apple Watch and products from Fitbit grew 28.4 percent over the same period, while basic wearables suffered a 9.2 percent decline.

Leading the pack was Apple with 4 million Apple Watch units shipped, up 13.5 percent year-over-year. The performance was good enough to capture a 16.1 percent share of the market, putting the company ahead of Xiaomi's 3.7 million shipped units and 14.8 percent marketshare. The Chinese upstart's wearables business finished the quarter up 2.3 percent.

Market stalwart Fitbit was dealt a punishing blow in quarter one and managed to ship 2.2 million units, down 28.1 percent year-over-year. The poor showing landed the company far back in third place with an 8.7 percent share of the market, whereas last year the health tracking firm was just 2 points away from then-No. 2 Apple. Fitbit was the only top-five manufacturer to post negative growth during the quarter.

Coming in fourth and fifth were Huawei and Garmin, respectively. Huawei managed to boost shipments by 147 percent to 1.3 million units and 5.2 percent of the market, while Garmin finished the period with a similar showing of 1.3 million shipments for a 5 percent marketshare.

Pushing its advantage, Apple is expected to unveil a redesigned Apple Watch model with larger screen, enhanced battery life and improved health features later this year. Not much is known about the device, though rumblings suggest Apple will not stray far from the form factor it debuted when the device launched in 2015.