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Apple Watch expected to take a big chunk of smartwatch market

Matt Hamblen | June 22, 2015
IDC puts Apple Watch at 63 percent of 2015 smartwatch shipments.

IDC analyst Ramon Llamas expects a battle between different smartwatch operating systems, even though IDC predicts Apple will surge ahead in 2015. "Android Wear, Tizen and WatchOS [from Apple] are moving ahead with improved user interfaces, user experiences and applications," he said. "Each platform is vying for best-in-class status."

In early June, Llamas had questions about the value of smartwatches like Apple Watch to buyers, especially when compared to fitness bands like Fitbit. "There's pressure on the smartwatch to prove its value," he said in an interview at the time. "That includes: What can I do on my smartwatch that I can't do on my smartphone?"

He also questioned how well a smartwatch priced above $300 can continue to sell when the market is filled with sub-$100 fitness bands.

Smartwatches, to many analysts, are not a proven commodity for many other reasons, including battery life and the difficulty in bringing much computing usefulness to such a small device.

Gartner analyst Van Baker in April summarized the uncertainties about smartwatches in general noting that Apple Watch shipments could be 20 million smartwatches in a year or much higher. "No one really knows," he said at the time.

In an interview, Ubrani predicted that once developers begin building effective apps for smartwatches, buyers will feel justified in paying more for a smartwatch than for a fitness band.

"Things are starting to crystallize for the smartwatch, especially with apps," Llamas added in an interview. "We've already had third party apps for Pebble and Android Wear and Tizen. Apple has taken the right approach by providing notifications first in Apple Watch, and then apps." These notifications including getting a sports score or a notice of a call or email on a smartwatch.

Still, Llamas said, "We don't know what the killer smartwatch app is going to be. We do know that people like notifications and they like fitness apps. It's up to the developer community to make the case for wearable tech, and specifically wristwear. They have to find apps that run independently on the watch and don't need to have the smartphone to have utility. Once that happens, now we're talking."

Ubrani said that smartwatch makers are "putting the building blocks in place but so far nothing much has emerged from it." There will come a point "when the utility of a smartwatch will be enough to justify the premium pricetag."

Apple has focused heavily on the fashion features of its smartwatches, including an 18-karat gold version with a starting price of $10,000. "The fashion focus at Apple will definitely help them," Ubrani said. "With any wearable, fashion will play a big role because people wear them in public and want to look good."


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