Over half of smartwatches are Apple Watch – but what’s the point?

apple watch appsNew data from Juniper Research shows the Apple Watch has claimed 52% of global smartwatch shipments in 2015, despite only launching at the end of April. Its popularity far eclipsed that of rival vendors, with Android Wear shipments comprising less than 10% of sales for the year.

According to the new research, Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear S2 has not achieved strong sales volumes since it launched in November despite being well received. Most other smartwatch sales are currently coming from cheaper, simpler devices from a range of smaller players, such as Martian, X and Razer, the latter with the recently-announced Nabu Watch.

What’s the point? Is that the problem?

Juniper’s research, Smartwatches: Trends, Vendor Strategies & Forecasts 2016-2020, mirrors my current feelings regarding the usefulness of smartwatches.

I do, obviously, love new tech but, just as I was tablet ambivalent for a long while, I can’t see how owning a smartwatch would improve or simplify my day-to-day. I wear an automatic Swiss watch that is actually from the early ’60s (I have a collection dating from the 1940s to the ’80s). It still works and it is still worth money if I decided to sell it. Could the same be said for any of the current crop of smartwatches further down the line?

I realise that my thought process may be skewed and that I should be treating these new devices more as extensions of my smartphone. We have now, for the most part, been programmed to update our mobiles at least once every 24 months, so why should I think any differently about a watch? Perhaps it’s a generational thing? It could be that I see watches as a timeless (is that ironic?) piece of functional jewelry.

The fact that Juniper’s research demonstrates how the continued lack of a strong use case for smartwatches means that, Apple Watch aside, the market thus far has been driven by lower priced devices with more basic functionality.

These devices, from the Breitling B55 Connected to the Martian Guess Connected are typically providing basic notification and tracking functions, without an app-capable operating system on the device itself.

Iterating Into the Wearable Future

The research argues that while many smartwatch vendors have produced ranges of watches, allowing for customisation and price segmentation, there have been no great leaps forward that have revolutionised the category.

apple watch 2In my opinion, Apple have done well to continue to market its products on the basis of lifestyle and they are fortunate to still be riding their populist wave as many of their customers remain brand loyal, almost blindly.

Research author James Moar remarked:

The smartwatch is now a category waiting for a market. Newer devices have offered more polished looks and subtly different functions, but no large changes in device capabilities or usage. With smartwatch functions established, it is now up to consumers to decide if they want them, rather than technology companies providing more reasons.”

Other key findings

  • The smartwatch ecosystem is growing rapidly, with dedicated software companies emerging to supply both games and productivity-based apps.
  • While the price point remains high for smartwatches, finance deals with retailers will be a key part in mitigating this concern, as well as making smartwatches more visible to general consumers.

The whitepaper, Smartwatches: Clocking the Trend, is available to download from the Juniper Research website together with further details of the new research.

Is this right?

Do you agree with these findings? Do you own a smartwatch and, if so, how did you make your choice? I would be very interested to hear from you.