Wearable electronic devices had a record quarter according to new figures from research firm IDC.

The company has put out a report estimating that 84.5 million “wearable devices” were shipped  in the third quarter of 2019, which is nearly twice as many as shipped during the same period a year earlier.

Why the big boom? IDC attributes it to “hearables,” or wireless earbuds and headphones, which made up close to half of the market.

I can’t help but wonder if this is as much about changing the definition of a wearable device as it is about a growth in the category. It seems like traditional wearables including smartwatches and fitness trackers haven’t budged much. But with wireless “hearables” like Apple’s AirPods and other Bluetooth earbuds with support for voice assistant features, the overall category looks a lot bigger.

That said, wireless headphones with microphones and support for Siri and Google Assistant have been around for a long time. It’s not entirely clear to me where IDC draws the line between plain old headphones and a “hearable,” but the company does claim to have seen a 242-percent year-over-year growth in “earwear” alone.

Anyway, according to the company’s numbers, Apple dominated shipments in Q3, with 29.5 wearables including AirPods, Apple Watches, and Beats headphones.

Xiaomi, which sells inexpensive fitness trackers and earbuds came in second, followed by Samsung, Huawei, and Fitbit (which is in the process of getting eaten up by Google).

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5 Comments

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  1. I guess I’ll add to the watch category this year. Got myself a Garmin Vivoactive 4S since it was $50 off on Amazon Prime. I was eyeing one of the Fitbits but changed my mind when Google bought Fitbit.

  2. Are wired earbuds/headsets part of the numbers? They’re the same things. If they’re not included, then if they were, will there still be this big growth?

  3. I would argue that’s it’s about stretching the definition to inflate growth as much as possible. These wireless earbuds are as much “wearable hearables” as a wired pair of headphones with a microphone in the cord, because that’s exactly what they’re replacing. Not because it’s better, but because changes nobody asked for in our phones told us they were a sin in the religion of consumerism.

    1. What’s worse is that I started getting headaches and pain in my ear a couple of months after I started using Bluetooth truly wireless pods and now I can’t use any Bluetooth earphones more than 5 minutes. Thanks Apple.