Coronavirus zonks gadget production

apple earbuds Airpods Pro
Coronavirus kept workers away from many electronics production plants in February, which is expected to lead to declines in shipments of wearables like Apple AirPods, IDC said. (Apple)

Coronavirus zonked recent production of electronics components as well as consumer gadgets and wearables, such as smart watches and earwear.

“We’re expecting some declines [in wearables] in the first quarter of 2020 due to supply constraints,” Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for mobile devices at IDC, told FierceElectronics

“February was pretty much a wash in terms of production, and since then factories in China have been operating at very low capacity,” he added. “There are still labor shortages, and logistics still remains an issue. In China, as well as other markets such as Europe, demand will also be reduced since many consumers are staying at home.”

IDC is publishing a forecast for the first quarter soon, but declines are anticipated over the 118.9 million wearable devices shipped in the fourth quarter of 2019, which represented 82% growth over the fourth quarter of 2018.   

More than half of the wearables shipped in fourth quarter 2019 were earworn devices, which IDC calls hearables, that focus on the audio experience, including rich quality audio and noise cancellation like the refreshed AirPods, called AirPods Pro from Apple. Hearables can also track health and fitness and provide language translation, as well as act as smart assistants.

Hearables benefited in 2019 from a number of new product introductions as well as more smartphones that cut the cord with traditional earphones, “practically driving users to purchase a hearable,” noted Ramon Llamas, research director for wearables at IDC.

Apple led the market in the fourth quarter for all wearables with 43 million devices shipped thanks to the AirPods and Apple Watch, as well as Beats products. Apple Watch shipments actually declined by 5% over the prior year due to supply shortages, IDC said.

Xiaomi ranked second with 12.8 million wearables, of which three-quarters were wristbands, IDC said. Samsung finished third with 10.5 millions shipped, followed by Huawei (9.3 million) and Fitbit (6 million).

For all of 2019, IDC said the same companies finished in the same order with Apple shipping 106 million wearables, followed by Xiaomi (41.7 million), Samsung (30.9 million), Huawei (28 million) and Fitbit (15.9 million). Year-over-year growth was 89% with 336 million devices shipped, compared with 178 million in 2018, IDC said.

Apple and Samsung captured a greater share of the market in 2019, Ubrani noted.

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