Apple dominated the wearables market over the holidays, IDC says

Watch and AirPods sales were up by 27 percent over last year.

The wearable market in Q4 2020 grew by 27 percent over last year and the largest beneficiary of that, by far, was Apple, according to IDC. The company shipped 36.2 percent of all devices during that period, compared to just 8.8 and 8.5 percent for its nearest rivals Xiaomi and Samsung, respectively. Much of that came from a 45 percent increase in Apple Watch shipments, along with a boost in AirPods sales (regular, Pro and Max) by 22 percent over Q4 2019.

To give an idea of the scale, IDC figures that Apple shipped 55.6 million wearable products during that quarter, up 27 percent over last year, compared to 13.5 million and 13 million units for Xiaomi and Samsung, respectively. Apple has never released exact sales by product, but Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said recently that Apple shipped around 90 million AirPods in 2020, 9to5Mac noted.

Referring to earphones and headphones as "hearables," IDC said that they became the "must-have device" of 2020. "Hearables provided a new degree of privacy, particularly during home quarantine but also while out in public," said IDC wearables research director Ramon T. Llamas.

Huawei fell to fourth place after Apple, Xiaomi and Samsung due to US sanctions, IDC said, even as shipments in China increased by 9.4 percent over last year. Samsung, meanwhile, saw a decline in smartwatch shipments, which might explain why it's reportedly planning to shift away from its own Tizen OS toward Android's wear OS.