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Apple shipped 11.6 million Apple Watches last year, says IDC

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Fitbit was far and away the top-selling wearable maker of 2015

In its first nine months selling wearables, Apple has shipped an estimated 11.6 million Apple Watches, according to a report this week from research firm IDC. That puts Apple at third place in the industry with 14.9 percent of the market, just behind Xiaomi. Fitbit is still far and away the leader, however, with 21 million shipments in 2015.

The worldwide wearable tech market, which includes fitness trackers and smartwatches, grew a staggering 172 percent last year, shipping 78.1 million units. The growth was driven by the popularity of lower-cost trackers from companies like Fitbit and the appeal of the higher-end Apple Watch, the report notes. More than one-third of all sales in 2015 happened in the fourth quarter, a 127 percent jump over the previous year's holiday season.

Fitbit remains the undisputed leader of the global wearable market, accounting for more than a quarter of all sales. While we still don't have official figures for Apple's wearable from the company itself, IDC's numbers give the first glimpse at the device's popularity and performance since it's gone on sale. According to the report, the lack of enthusiasm for Apple's first-generation device might be attributable to its lack of deep integration with any of the company's new software platforms. "Expectations are higher for the next-generation Watch that can leverage the company's platforms (HealthKit, ResearchKit, WatchKit, and watchOS 2) and connectivity capabilities," IDC writes.

Beyond the stiff competition between Apple, Fitbit, and others, the report indicates wearables are finally entering the mainstream. "It shows that wearables are not just for the technophiles and early adopters; wearables can exist and are welcome in the mass market," writes Ramon Llamas, a research manager for IDC's wearables team. "And since wearables have yet to fully penetrate the mass market, there is still plenty of room for growth in multiple vectors: new vendors, form factors, applications, and use cases."