Believe it or not, the Pixel Watch seems to be a hit! At least, that’s according to new numbers from Canalys, which has Google capturing second place for worldwide wearable bands market share in the fourth quarter of 2022. Canalys’ “wearable bands” market category includes smartwatches, “core watches” and “core bands” from all major tech companies.
The report has Google with an 8 percent market share by the fourth quarter of 2022, which is good enough to fall just behind Apple’s commanding 27.5 percent of shipments. Google was ranked fourth this time last year, and Canalys credits “16% growth in smartwatches with the launch of its Pixel Watch” as the reason for Google’s rise to No.2.
You might say, “Isn’t the Pixel Watch Google’s first smartwatch, so the growth is 0 units?” but no, Google also owns Fitbit, which means a bunch of product lines like the FitBit Sense, Versa, and Inspire get lumped into the “Google” bucket. Canalys says Google shipped 880,000 Pixel watches in the fourth quarter, making the watch 22 percent of Google’s 4 million wearable shipments; the rest is still Fitbit.
By the way, Fitbit’s sales to Google are a disaster. Even with that 16 percent growth in smartwatches from the Pixel Watch, overall shipments of Google’s wearables are down 25 percent year-over-year, thanks to what the report calls “declining Fitbit shipments” . So far, Google’s only plans for Fitbit are to kill the company. Google is assimilating Fitbit accounts sometime this year, and has already announced the shutdown of its beloved fitness gamification features: “Challenges” and “Adventures” at the end of this month. It also removed Fitbit smartwatches from Google Assistant support when it updated the line last August. With existing customers outraged by the loss of features, it’s unclear why anyone would bet on Fitbit’s future.
Fortunately for Google, everything else in the wearables market has fallen far more than Google’s Fitbit losses. Last year’s runner-up, Xiaomi, saw sales plummet 46 percent. Huawei is down 42 percent. Samsung, in fifth place, is down 35 percent. Even Apple’s sales are down 17 percent, slightly outpacing the overall market decline of 18 percent. Much of the sales decline is explained by the death of core fitness trackers, which are experiencing their ninth consecutive quarterly decline, down 43 percent year-on-year.
Seeing Google anywhere on a global market share chart is a surprise, since the company has such a small hardware operation when it comes to global distribution. The Pixel Watch is only sold in nine countries, while the Apple Watch is available in over 60 countries and the Galaxy Watches in at least 31 countries (I couldn’t find an exact number). Google’s small distribution network makes it difficult to make an impact on any of the market share charts.
Aside from the distribution issues, Google has a lot of room for improvement in a purported second-generation Pixel Watch. The Pixel Watch is too expensive compared to the competition. A complete selection of premium watch straps yet doesn’t exist, although metal bands will be an option at some point this year. Google also made buying a Pixel Watch an expensive hassle, as it’s the only major watch vendor that doesn’t let you choose a watch band at checkout, forcing everyone to pay more for the default rubber watch band. These are all first generation solvable problems that give us something to look forward to.