John Brandon, Contributing Editor at Inc., called the Apple Watch a ‘Newton-Like’ failure. He wasn’t referring to the prominent English physicist, but the Apple Newton, widely considered the company’s biggest flop.
He described it as a ’trend statement’ and for people ‘who want to earn some bragging rights’. Brandon’s disdain for the Apple Watch is shared by many, most of whom have criticized its fuzzy screen, poor battery life and generally clunky usability.
Others, however, have been quick to point to its commercial performance as an indicator of future success. A recent report by CCS Insight, for example, stated that in its first quarter of sales, the Apple Watch accounted for $1billion in revenue, while also acting as a catalyst for the spike in consumer awareness around wearables in key markets. The report called it the ‘Apple effect’.
According to the same report, the wearable tech market is set to treble by 2019. This year, around 84 million units were shipped in total, a figure expected to rise to 245 million in the next five years. The market’s predicted expansion, however, is not just down to Apple. Brands such as Fitbit, Jawbone and even Xiaomi are also playing an important role.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches will continue to be the industry’s most popular products. But with the latter considerably more expensive, more fitness tracker bands are expected to be shipped, although smartwatches will account for over 50% of the industry’s revenue. Xiaomi’s Mi Band is currently on sale for $15 in China, something which not only signals the Chinese company’s intent, but an understanding that people, in the main, aren’t yet willing to part with wads of cash to get the latest tracker. While recent figures show that the Apple Watch recorded higher than anticipated sales figures in China - thought to be around 1 million - some feel that smartwatches will a tough sell in the world’s most populated country.
The ratio of smartphone to smartwatch shipments paints a bleak picture for the wearable industry. At the moment, it’s a pitiful 500 to 1. But as pointed out in Forbes, this is predicted to fall to 20 to 1 by the end of 2019. And if this does happen, you should expect all the major players to be vying for their share of the market. It won’t just be tech companies either. The CCS report states: ‘With the wearables market set to be worth $25 billion by 2019 and a decline in traditional watch sales, it is little surprise that watchmakers such as Alpina, Frederique Constant, Fossil, Guess and TAG Heuer have started adding smartwatches to their portfolios.’
Improvements will need to be made to the products currently available, but if they are made, the wearable industry could start competing with mainstream tech industries.