SAN FRANCISCO - A new report estimates Apple (AAPL) shipped 3.6 million watches in the last quarter -- more than some analysts have estimated and enough to change the competitive landscape for fitness bands and other wearable gadgets.
Apple shipped enough units of its new smartwatch to nearly overtake market leader FitBit in the last quarter, according to analysts at International Data Corp. Their report warns that traditional fitness bands may be losing popularity to smartwatches and other devices that offer more features.
"People want to get more out of their devices," said IDC's Ramon Llamas in an interview. "It's kind of like the way smartphones overtook basic phones."
Consumer response to the Apple Watch has been the subject of intense speculation since the new gadget went on sale this spring. While Apple is known for making popular gadgets, the watch represents a new category of products for the company. Critics have questioned whether it's useful enough for consumers to need or want one on their wrist.
Apple has not revealed how many watches it has sold at prices that start at $350, with luxury models selling for $10,000 or more. After the company issued its last financial report, in which Apple lumped watch sales into a broader category it calls "other products," many analysts estimated Apple sold between 2 million and 3 million watches during the quarter that ended in June.
IDC says it starts with Apple's financial reports but also gathers data from suppliers, distributors and consumers to estimate the number of units shipped by the Cupertino, California, company, not actual retail sales. IDC also tracks shipments of personal computers, smartphones and other computer products. Its reports on those products, along with estimates from rival research firm Gartner, are widely cited in the industry.
While the IDC figure for the Apple Watch is higher than other recent estimates, it's still lower than many projections made before Apple started selling the watch in late April. IDC had initially forecast Apple would ship about 22 million watches during the calendar year. Llamas said that now seems unlikely.
Still, he said Apple's clout in the marketplace will influence other makers of wearable gadgets. Over the next few years, IDC predicts, basic fitness bands will lose ground to "smart" devices that come with a variety of apps and Internet services. That includes the Apple Watch and other smartwatches that use competing software from Google or other companies.
IDC estimates FitBit led the wearable industry by shipping 4.4 million fitness bands in the second quarter. After Apple, IDC said other market leaders include China's Xiaomi, with 3.1 million units shipped; Garmin, with 700,000 units and Samsung with 600,000 units. Counting other manufacturers, IDC estimated 18.1 million wearable gadgets were shipped in the quarter.