Apple Watch
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the Apple Watch during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 9, 2014. Reuters/Stephen Lam

Apple is now the number one wearables seller in the world. The company shipped approximately 3.5 million Apple Watch units during the first quarter of this year.

According to new research stats, the Mac maker’s watch shipments went beyond those by rival Fitbit from January to March 2017. This paved the way for Apple to grab almost 16 percent worldwide marketshare and become the world’s top wearables merchant. Fitbit drops to third place with an estimated 2.9 million shipments of its wearables while Xiaomi plays second fiddle to Apple with about 3.4 million wearable units shipped.

The roughly 3.5 million watch shipments by Apple is a major improvement over the 2.2 million wearable shipments of last year’s first quarter. The Cupertino, California tech giant grew its watch business compared to Fitbit, which saw its shipments go down from nearly 4.5 million units between January and March 2016. However, Apple holds a slim global marketshare margin over Xiaomi, which owns 15.5 percent of the pie, considering the Chinese company’s drop in shipments.

During the first quarter of 2016, Xiaomi captured almost 21 percent of the marketshare compared to Apple’s 12 percent. Still, it doesn’t compare to Fitbit’s collapse. The San Francisco, California-based consumer electronics company went from 24.7 percent in 2016’s first quarter to 13.2 percent between January and March 2017.

“Fitbit shipped 2.9 million wearables worldwide in Q1 2017, falling a huge 36 percent annually from 4.5 million in Q1 2016,” said Cliff Raskind, Director at independent research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics. “Fitbit has lost its wearables leadership to Apple, due to slowing demand for its fitness bands and a late entry to the emerging smartwatch market. Fitbit's shipments, revenue, pricing and profit are all shrinking at the moment and the company has a major fight on its hands to recover this year.”

Not once has Apple fully publicised the precise number of wearables it has sold. The smartwatch just gets included on the “other products” list in quarterly earnings reports. The said list – which includes the Apple TV, iPod, Beats products and other Apple and third party accessories – only represent 5 percent of the company’s overall revenue as of the moment.

On a more interesting note, Apple revealed in its annual Environmental Responsibility Report a couple of weeks ago how the company goes to great lengths to make sure its wearables are safe to use (see related story below). The company even creates artificial sweat to test Apple Watch bands.