Smartwatches are viewed as a growing mobile trend, and there are several models which we can go out and buy this very minute. But how well did the early examples sell during 2013, the year when interest in smartwatches really began to rise? According to Strategy Analytics, just under two million smartwatches shipped globally last year, and watches running Android snapping up a 61 percent share of that figure.
About 1.2 million Android watches were sold in 2013, with the remaining 700,000 falling into the “other” category. And believe it or not, the most popular Android smartwatch was the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Yes, there are other Android-based smartwatches out there, but not enough to put much of a dent in Samsung. Neither of Sony’s SmartWatch models can compete either; they’re hidden inside the Others section along with the Pebble, because they use their own operating systems.
We didn’t believe 800,000 Galaxy Gear smartwatches had been shipped in two months when we heard it last year. After all, even Samsung didn’t think it was very good, and quickly began talking up a sequel. Now, we’ve put those numbers into perspective, and while it’s no Galaxy S4 – which racked up 40 million sales in six months – it’s doing considerably better than the competition. Sony, which hasn’t revealed any SmartWatch sales figures, has probably sold less than 400,000, as Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky confirmed at CES 2014 it had sold at least 300,000 units since release.
How Apple could overthrow Samsung
So where’s the competition to challenge Samsung and Android’s early control of the market? Just like the smartphone world, it’s almost certainly going to come from Apple and its rumored iWatch. However, we’re not expecting it to launch until late this year or even sometime in 2015, which could potentially leave it far behind its rival.
We asked Strategy Analytics’ Executive Director, Neil Mawston, about Apple’s potential to turn things around. “We would expect Apple to quickly overtake Android in the short-term,” he said, working on the basis of an iWatch launch later in 2014 or early in 2015, citing an inevitably attractive product – key to success in the smartwatch market – and a large distribution network as reasons why. “However, in the long-term, we would expect Android to develop a large ecosystem of hardware partners, eventually putting it back in the driving seat,” he added.
Big things are expected from wearable technology, including smartwatches, over the coming years. Juniper Research estimates total product shipments will reach 130 million by 2018, or 10 times what it expects in 2014. It’s still very early days though, and the relatively small number of people currently interested in buying smartwatches highlights why Apple probably isn’t in a hurry to put the iWatch on sale. However, the longer it waits, the larger Android’s slice of the pie will get.