Apple Watch is Gaining on Fitbit, but that Doesn't Mean Fitbit is Screwed

Apple Watch sales are approaching Fitbit's numbers, according to data from IDC. The market research firm estimated Apple sold 3.6 million smartwatches during the second quarter while Fitbit sold 4.4 million of its fitness trackers. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that Apple is about to eat Fitbit's lunch.

Apple is already the second largest wearables maker behind FitbitApple isn't breaking out Apple Watch sales figures, although the company did offer a hint by saying first quarter numbers topped the original iPhone and iPad launch quarter sales. For the iPad, that was 3.27 million units, which means Apple Watch sales were higher. That doesn't confirm IDC's estimate, but does make it plausible.

That puts Apple Watch quarterly sales less than a million units behind Fitbit, and assuming consumers keep buying, that gap will continue to shrink. That sounds like bad news for Fitbit, but it isn't necessarily trouble for the company—at least not yet.

Fitbit sells wearable fitness trackers such as the Fitbit One and the Fitbit Flex, and the Fitbit Surge that also shows alerts from your smartphone. Fitbit doesn't make smartwatches, and as such isn't directly competing with Apple Watch. Instead, Fitbit is selling to people who want fitness tracking features but aren't necessarily interested in using wrist top apps.

Apple Watch, on the other hand (or wrist), caters to consumers looking for two-way interaction with their iPhone along with the ability to track their fitness activity. There is likely some customer crossover, but people who are looking for wat Apple Watch has to offer aren't necessarily consumers who would've otherwise looked at Fitbit's products.

The wearables market is growing, and that means new customers are coming in. According to IDC's data, the wearables market is up 223.2 percent from 5.6 million units in the second quarter of 2014 to 18.1 million units in the same quarter this year.

Those users aren't dropping one wearable platform for another; they're simply new bodies in the market. Some of them want feature-specific devices, like Fitbit's products, and others want true smartwatches like Apple Watch.

For now, Fitbit can keep growing and selling to people who want more specialized fitness trackers. The real worrying should be happening in the offices of other smartwatch makers because that's where Apple is dominating.

Apple managed to surpass its competitor's annual smartwatch sales in a matter of weeks, and is expanding Apple Watch's presence in the retail space. You can buy Apple Watch in Apple's own stores, a handful of high-end retailers, and now Best Buy. Sales are going so well for Best Buy that the company has revamped its plans to offer Apple's watch in 300 stores by Christmas to all of its stores before October.

As Apple Watch evolves, it may become more enticing for Fitbit and other fitness tracker users. When that day comes Fitbit's executive team needs to start worrying, or better yet, they need to be preparing now to compete in a wearable tech space Apple wants to dominate.

"Fairly or not, Apple will become the stick against which other wearables are measured, and competing vendors need to stay current or ahead of Apple," siad IDC wearables team research manager Ramon Llamas. "Now that Apple is officially a part of the wearables market, everyone will be watching to see what other wearable devices it decides to launch."

That creates new opportunities for Fitbit as its product line evolves. With more consumer eyes on the wearables market, more opportunities to draw in new customers arise. Fitbit will have to figure out how to convince those potential consumers that fitness trackers with fewer features than smartwatches have value, and that may be a challenge because all wearables will be compared to Apple Watch.

For Fitbit, this is a new opportunity and hopefully the company is up for the challenge.