As iWatch anticipation builds up, smartwatch market to grow tenfold in 2014

iWatch cocept (Martin Hajek, MacUser April 2013 issue 011)

The smartwatch market is about to explode – never mind not a single device from Apple or Samsung has shipped. Despite all those troublesome facts, one analyst firm is out with a prediction that five million “smartwatches” will ship in 2014, ten times the current number. How can this be? Welcome to defining tech 2.0. The research firm Canalys defines smartwatches as “smart wearable bands” that are worn on the body and run third-party apps…

Turns out, more than 330,000 smartwatches were shipped in 2012 with 500,000 this year, according to Canalys. Sony and Pebble Technology are the clear leaders. Pebble recently announced more than 275,000 pre-orders for its device.

As for Apple’s rumored iWatch project, the company has gone on a whirlwind tour, trademarking the brand in a number of nations. The firm known for its design style, also added a fashion expert to the roster of those working on the as-yet unannounced but highly-touted device.

Pebble black (front)
The Pebble smartwatch.

“Smartwatches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets,” claims Chris Jones, VP and principal analyst at the researcher. The company believes smartwatches will become known as ‘appcessories,’ complementing, but not replacing smartphones.

Most smartwatches on the market now are limited to receiving brief text messages or updates on your heart rate and other health stats. Don’t expect something like Dick Tracy, where you carry on conversations via your steroidal timepiece.

iwatch header
Comic via Joy of Tech.

“Strict power constraints will prohibit cellular technology, limit the number of sensors and necessitate communication with smartphones over Bluetooth Low Energy,” according to Canalys’ Daniel Matte.

While limited in capabilities, smartwatches are seen as greener pastures for app designers encountering stiff competition for smartphone users.

“An effective smartwatch won’t just be a second screen for a smartphone,” says analyst James Wang. Building a team of capable developers for the new form factor “will be an enormous challenge,” adds Wang.

Google and Microsoft will need to step up their game better than now used to compete in the tablet market. The company that first appears with gotta-have smartwatch apps “will be best poised to capitalize on this major market opportunity.”

iWatch cocept (Martin Hajek, MacUser April 2013 issue 002)

More than a billion watches shipped in 2012, smart or not, according to Canalys.

Although the research firm claims sales of traditional watches “will be quickly disrupted,” (and isn’t it about time we retired that verb from the tech lexicon?), I’m not so certain of the speed.

While the researcher sees the tipping point in adding enough functions and style to overcome the higher price tag, I see a learning curve on smartwatches similar to smartphones.

Smartphones weren’t instantly adopted en mass.

Instead, it took years for owners of inexpensive feature phones to switch to the more feature-rich smartphones.

I’ve used the same $20 Timex watch for two decades. More often the case, people have given up wristwatches all together, relying on their cell phone to know the time.

Are you buying into this whole smartwatch/iWatch craze?