China sees rise in market for smart wearable devices

Tech-savvy consumers in China and elsewhere are increasingly choosing smart wearable devices as technology upgrades gain momentum and users scramble to embrace gadgets which make life more convenient, according to the latest sales figures.

Technological advances have greatly enriched the functionality of smart wearables, from sophisticated voice-controlled wireless earbuds to watches that interact with smartphone apps, make calls and monitor users’ health. Now, their appeal is growing in leaps and bounds, say experts.

In Q3 of 2019 alone, some 84.5m wearable device units were shipped around the world, posting a 94.6% year-on-year growth and marking a record high volume for shipments in any one quarter, according to data from market researcher International Data Corp.

The rise was chiefly driven by strong demand for hearables. These include Apple’s AirPods and wireless earbuds from Huawei's. IDC said the hearables segment alone accounted for almost 50% of the wearables market from June-September, with 40.7m in-ear smart devices shipped from manufacturers.

A bank employee in Beijing, Zhang Wentao, is a typical consumer. He recently spent about 2,000 yuan (US$ 284) on a set of AirPods Pro, the latest model by Apple. The smart device delivers high-quality sound, supports gestures to pause music and allows him to take voice calls and interact with Apple's voice-activated digital assistant, Siri, Zhang explained.

"It wasn’t supposed to be a necessity, but once I began wearing them, I did not want to take them off," he commented.

Whilst users like Zhang are contributing to the expansion of smart wearable sales in Asia-Pacific countries such as China, Xiang Ligang, CEO of telecoms website Cctime, said such earbuds have become the new sought-after product in the region.

Xiang remarked: "Local consumers have a greater appetite for devices which make life convenient and help them better enjoy their leisure time."

Because around half of “wearable” shipments are now essentially headphones, there are some who have questioned if these are really true wearables at all. However, other categories have done well also.

There are similar instances of growth seen in the rising popularity of fitness trackers and smart watches in China. Increasing consumer demand has already helped domestic brands such as Xiaomi and Huawei make their way into the top 4 wearable brands around the globe.

Huawei, particularly, has seen a surge in shipment numbers to Chinese consumers over the last three months. The company, which is based in Shenzhen, announced it has sold more than 10m smart watches in 2019 already.

Huawei is a surprising case, given its recent political woes. Its success stems from a strong performance in China. Some 80 percent of its smart wearable devices were sold within the country and shipments of wearables are up 180 percent year-on-year.

Xiang says the big tech giants launched products too early several years ago in the case of smart wearables before the hardware was available to catch up with initial designs. But as innovation has advanced, the majority of the problems are going away, and new market solutions are becoming fashionable.

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