Believe it or not, the Pixel Watch appears to be a hit! At least, that’s according to new numbers from Canalys, which has Google capturing the No. 2 spot for worldwide wearable band marketshare in Q4 2022. Canalys’ “wearable band” market category includes smartwatches, “basic watches,” and “basic bands” from all the big tech companies.
The report has Google at 8 percent marketshare for Q4 2022, which is good enough to slot in right behind Apple’s dominant 27.5 percent of shipments. Google was in fourth place this time last year, and Canalys credits the “16% smartwatch growth with the release 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, and therefore the growth is from 0 units?” but no, Google also owns Fitbit, which means a bunch of product lines like the FitBit Sense, Versa, and Inspire are getting lumped into the “Google” bucket. Canalys says Google shipped 880,000 Pixel Watches during Q4, so the watch makes up 22 percent of Google’s 4 million wearables shipments—the rest is still Fitbit.
Fitbit sales under Google are a disaster, by the way. Even with that 16 percent smartwatch growth from the Pixel Watch, Google’s overall wearables shipments are actually down 25 percent year over year, thanks to what the report calls “waning Fitbit shipments.” So far, Google’s only plans for Fitbit are to gut the company. Google is assimilating Fitbit accounts sometime this year and has already announcing a shutdown of beloved fitness gamification features—”Challenges” and “Adventures”—later this month. It also stripped Fitbit smartwatches of Google Assistant support when it updated the lineup last August. With existing customers outraged over the loss of features, it’s not clear why anyone would gamble on Fitbit’s future.
Luckily for Google, the entire rest of the wearables market is down by much more than Google’s Fitbit losses. Last year’s No. 2 player, Xiaomi, had sales plummet 46 percent. Huawei is down 42 percent. Samsung, in 5th place, is down 35 percent. Even Apple sales are down 17 percent, slightly beating the overall 18 percent market decline. A lot of the sales decline is explained by the death of basic fitness trackers, which are seeing their ninth consecutive quarterly decline, down 43 percent year over year.
Seeing Google place anywhere on a worldwide marketshare chart is a surprise, since the company has such a small hardware operation when it comes to worldwide distribution. The Pixel Watch is only sold in nine countries, while the Apple Watch is available in over 60 countries and Galaxy Watches in at least 31 countries (I couldn’t find an exact number). Google’s tiny distribution network makes it hard to put a dent in any of the marketshare charts.
Besides distribution problems, Google has lots of room for improvement on a presumed second-generation Pixel Watch. The Pixel Watch is too expensive compared to the competition. A comprehensive first-party watch band selection still doesn’t exist, although sometime this year metal bands will be an option. Google also made buying a Pixel Watch an expensive hassle, since it’s the only major watch vendor that doesn’t let you pick a watch band at checkout, forcing everyone to pay extra for the default rubber watch band. These are all fixable first-generation problems that give us something to look forward to.