SAN FRANCISCO — Apple shipped an estimated 18 million Apple Watches in 2017 — including roughly 8 million in the fourth quarter alone — reinforcing its dominance in the wearables product category, according to market watcher Canalys.

Apple shipped nearly 9 million units of Apple Watch Series 3 — the latest version which adds for the first time standalone cellular connectivity — making up nearly half of total Apple Watch shipments for the year, Canalys said.

"Apple has won the wearables game,” said Jason Low, a senior analyst at Canalys, in a press statement. Low said that Apple has pulled far ahead of competitors by continuing to focus on its core iPhone user base, even while rivals have brought to market innovative designs featuring things such as rotating bezels and circular screens.

Canalys said Series 3 was in strong demand in the U.S., Japan and Australia, where all major operators stocked it in time for the holiday season.

Apple Watch Sales 2017

"But limited operator selection in the UK, Germany and France influenced consumer purchase decisions, and stifled the growth potential of the connected Apple Watch," said Vincent Thielke, a Canalys research analyst at Canalys.

"Moving into new markets, such as Singapore and Hong Kong in Q1 2018, just in time for Chinese New Year, is a good move,” Thielke added.

In all, Apple Watch shipments increased about 54 percent in 2017, Canalys said.

— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.