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Smartwatch Reset: Wearable Tech Vendor Reaction

When the smartwatch market came into being, most industry analysts assumed that Apple would dominate the new category. Now it seems that Google Android will likely lead the market, via its extensive open ecosystem of software developers.

While the number of high-end smartwatches is faltering, hybrid watches remain largely unaffected by the market slow-down, according to the latest market study by Juniper Research.

These watches have traditional watch faces but offer some connected functions -- such as tracking the user's steps or enabling NFC payments -- and claim a larger portion of the market than previously anticipated.

Smartwatch Market Development Trends

While basic smartwatches account for around 30 percent the current market value, Juniper anticipates that this share will grow to almost 40 percent within the next five years.

The new research findings anticipate that as the high-end multi-functional smartwatch market slows, vendors will refine or remove unpopular functionalities, focusing on specific use cases, such as fitness and health.

According to the Juniper assessment, multi-functional smartwatches are the most visible smartwatch category overall, but now that initial interest has waned, the segment is consolidating.

Motorola and Huawei have both withdrawn from the market, while Pebble and Vector have been acquired. The sector is now primarily the preserve of Apple, Samsung and Fitbit -- together with traditional watchmakers such as Fossil and TAG Heuer.


Juniper believes that device revenue from smartwatches will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.3 percent over the forecast period, reaching over $21.5 billion per year in 2021.

In the absence of a 'must-have' use case for multi-functional smartwatches, Juniper has scaled back its estimates for market growth, and anticipates less than 60 million smartwatches will be shipped annually by 2021.

"Now that the initial smartwatch buzz is over, a longer product lifecycle and sluggish adoption are responsible for the slowing market, as users do not regularly upgrade," said James Moar, senior analyst at Juniper Research.

Other key findings from the study include:
  • Despite being present in several smartwatches, NFC is unlikely to generate new use cases for the category, as it is frequently locked into the device vendor’s mobile payment system, hindering innovation.
  • Customizable watch faces dominate smartwatch app downloads, implying that Google Android will take most of the category’s software revenue.

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