Could the time finally be right for smartwatches?

  • AFP
  • Updated: May 20, 2014 11:46 IST

The market for the wrist-worn, smartphone-synching devices has grown over 250% year on year and Samsung is leading the charge.

Over the first three months of 2014, Samsung alone has shipped 500,000 smartwatches, according to Strategy Analytics' latest report into wearable technology. That might not sound like a huge number, and in all truth, it isn't. For example, Apple sold 10 million iPhone 5S and 5C handsets in a single weekend this September.

However, the smartphone is a well-established, clearly defined, desirable tech product. The smartwatch is still a very niche product in its infancy and one without a very clear use case. Just under 2 million smartwatches shipped in the whole of 2013 in total from all manufacturers.

Yet, in just three months, Samsung has managed to ship more than a quarter of that total and in doing so has snagged 71% of the market. Sony and Pebble account for another 11.4% with both companies shipping 80,000 units while Qualcomm's Toq, which was rushed out to market just before the end of 2013, accounts for 1% of the current smartwatch landscape, having shipped 10,000 watches.

More impressive still is that these figures only run up to the end of March and therefore don't account for the launch of Samsung's latest smartwatches, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo, which only went on sale in April and are much superior to the company's first attempt at a smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear.

As well as new Samsung devices, the market is about to be inundated by watches that use Android Wear, a special take on the smartphone operating system, optimized by Google to work on wearables. The first watches to use it, the Moto 360 and LG G Watch, are both set for launch before the end of the summer.

Thanks to its classic design and use of premium materials, the Moto 360 is already generating quite a buzz too. In fact, the way its makers have been talking it up, the Moto 360 is going to have to be incredible in every way to live up to the hype.

Earlier in May, Motorola's Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Operations said during an interview with Trusted Reviews that the: "Moto 360 is a really cool device that we think solves a lot of problems that no one else has solved in the wearables space." He went on to describe all current smartwatches as "pretty crappy."

So, if the Moto 360 is a hit then the smartwatch market could explode in 2014 after all. However, most expert believe that it would take the launch of an Apple branded wearable -- the iWatch -- for the device to get past the geeky and become embraced by the mainstream.

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