Apple Watch Sales 'Off the Charts.' Should You Buy One?

Depending on whom you ask, smartwatch sales are struggling, or they're red-hot. Apple falls into the latter camp, according to CEO Tim Cook, who says that the company just broke a record with Apple Watch sales.

Credit: Sam Rutherford/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Sam Rutherford/Tom's Guide)

"Sales growth is off the charts," Cook told Reuters in an email message. "In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product's history. And as we expected, we're on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch."

Cook's rosy picture seems to fly in the face of a report just issued by research firm IDC, which says that Apple Watch shipments declined by 70 percent year-over-year in the third quarter. Cook's comments to Reuters were in response to a query about the IDC report.

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IDC claims that it's seeing a big shift in the overall wearables market, with more simple, single-purpose fitness trackers from Fitbit and others now making up a whopping 85 percent of the market.

Can both companies be right? Sort of. The latest Apple Watch Series 2 and updated Series 1 didn't go on sale until mid-September, toward the end of the third quarter, and might not have had much impact on IDC's figures. Results from October through December won't show up until  fourth-quarter numbers are available.

Is the Apple Watch right for you? It depends on what you're looking for from a wearable device. Although it does a lot more than a simple fitness tracker, the Apple Watch Series 2 is best for those looking to get fit. It offers built-in GPS to track your runs and comes in a new swim-proof design you can easily take in the pool.

Apple made some other notable improvements when moving from the Series 1 to the Series 2, including adding a faster processor, a brighter display and a beefier battery. But there simply isn't yet a killer app for the Apple Watch — or for any smartwatch. Notifications from your iPhone are helpful, and so is being able to pay with stuff with Apple Pay via your wrists, but you'll still want to use your smartphone for most tasks.

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Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's Wearables team, cited several challenges for smartwatches in the company's report and wrote that "we need to see more intuitive user interfaces, seamless user experiences, standalone connectivity and applications that go beyond health and fitness and into personal and professional productivity."

The new Gear S3 from Samsung goes further than the Apple Watch buy offering optional 4G and a more stylish design, but as our own Mike Prospero wrote in his review, there simply aren't enough apps to choose from yet. The same IDC report said Samsung wearable sales — which includes more than smartwatches — were up 90 percent year-over-year.

So, yes, the Apple Watch may be hot for now, but that doesn't mean it's right for you.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.