Can the Apple Watch 2 help the smartwatch sector rebound?

Tick tock

Smartwatches aren't doing so hot, according to the latest numbers from market analyst firm IDC. The category could rebound, however, with new watches like the Apple Watch 2 coming to market, though how much is up for debate.

IDC reports that overall smartwatch shipments totaled 2.7 million units in Q32016, a sharp 51.6% decline from the same time last year. 

Much of the smartwatch sector's performance rests on Apple's shoulders, and the company maintained its vice grip as the number one vendor in the space, shipping 1.1 million units this past quarter. Don't pop the champagne yet as that's a 71.6% decline from the same time last year. 

The drop is largely due to the first Apple Watch coming to retail stores in Q32015, giving a hearty boost to the iPhone 7 maker's numbers. What's more, the Apple Watch 2 was only available for the last two weeks of Q32016, meaning the full impact of the new watch wasn't recorded in the quarter.

Apple made several improvements to the Apple Watch Series 2, including water resistance and GPS support. These upgrades, along with a cheaper price for the Apple Watch Series 1, could be enough to sway consumers into buying Apple's wearable, which in turn would give the overall sector a jump in Q4.

Counting down

Of course, Apple isn't the only one making smartwatches, though it is shipping the largest amount. 

Garmin came in second this past quarter with 20.5% of market share, posting the largest year-over-year increase among top vendors. IDC points to Garmin smartwatches' focus on health and fitness as part of their success. 

Samsung came in third with a 14.4% corner on the market thanks to the cellular-connected Gear S2. The Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier, though announced in Q3, haven't been released yet. 

Lenovo (Motorola) and Pebble rounded out the top five, with Lenovo posting the biggest year-over-year decline. The Moto 360 sold out in multiple channels, IDC notes, and the Moto 360 Sport is hard to come by. This was also the first quarter Motorola didn't announce a new smartwatch, furthering its fall. 

Android Wear wait

The lack of a new Motorola smartwatch points to another factor holding smartwatches back this quarter: Google's delay of Android Wear 2.0, which won't release until next year. 

The delay left vendors to rely on older devices to drive Q3 shipments, but it also doesn't bode well for Q4 as manufacturers won't have new smartwatches running the latest software to release. 

Though the Apple Watch 2 and new Android Wear 2.0 watches could help the smartwatch sector rebound from a dismal Q3, it's unclear how much either will really help as customers don't seem to be responding to the wearables. 

Focusing on fitness helps give smartwatches purpose, but as IDC points out, the devices haven't done much to differentiate or free themselves from smartphones, leaving customers to wonder, what's the point? 

We'll see how coming quarters shake out for smartwatches, but time may be running out for the tech to catch on. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle is the Senior News Editor for TechRadar, based in the Bay Area. Covering all things tech, Michelle is obsessed with good handsets, smart machines and self-driving cars. With an eye on every corner of the industry, Michelle aims to bring readers the most useful and entertaining bits about the tech they love.