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TECH: Revolution of Smartwatches
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Revolution of Smartwatches:

An Unsuccessful Attempt Or A Smartphone 'Killer'?

By Max Rogers

BT 201701 TECH 04The appearance of smartwatches on the market of electronic devices looks like a real revolution. In a comparatively short period of time, these devices became pretty popular: from less than a million items shipped per year this market has grown to about 50 million sales in 2016. According to the Business Insider forecast, the trend will go on, hitting the 70 million mark in 2021.

While the number of sales is on the rise, the companies developing new devices invest billions into their research and development. Why do they do it? Are the smartwatches just another unsuccessful product which is being advertised hard or is it a real 'killer' for the smartphones market?

The first smartwatches

Can you guess the year when the first Smartwatch was launched? Majority of people would probably say that it happened in 2015 or in 2014. Maybe someone would suggest that it was released in 2012 or so. But all of these people would be wrong. The first smartwatch is considered to be the product of Samsung, named SPH-WP10. It was equipped with a monochrome LCD display, radio speaker, microphone and antenna.

The next year IBM released its smartwatch model based on the Linux OS. It had even more promising specifications, which included an accelerometer, 12 MB of memory, the vibrating mechanism and a touch-sensitive monochrome display. It was about 16 years ago.

BT 201701 TECH 03The Apple phenomenon

No need to say that the modern smartwatches, like Apple Watch, have much bigger storage (8Gb and more). They are also equipped with different fitness options, like the heart rate sensor or the steps counter. We know about them but we did hear nothing about, let's say, Sony Ericsson LiveView that was launched in 2010.

This fact shows that it was not the invention of such kind of a device, like the wearable gadget with the smartphone's functions inside which made this revolution. We had these watches even before tablets became so popular. The 'revolution' itself happened when Apple released its product and when the attention of the broad audience was focused on the wearable and stylish PC on our wrist.

Another interesting fact confirms this suggestion. The well known Apple Watch was released in the beginning of 2015. About 34 million devices were sold in the first year after its release. The worse known Samsung Galaxy Gear was presented in September 2013. Two months later Reuters, mentioning the sources in Samsung, claimed that about 800,000 items of new Gears had been sold. Even if this information is true, it means that no more than 4-5 million watches by Samsung could have been sold in the first year of sales. The difference is dramatic, isn't it?

BT 201701 TECH 02Other smartwatch manufacturers

Apple and Samsung are not the only participants of the smartwatch market struggle. In 2014 LG released its G Watch. The device is based on Android Wear, a platform developed for working with smartwatches. It has got a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip, a quad-core (with 1.2 GHZ frequency), 512 Mb of the memory and 4 Gb of storage. The device supported Google Play and Google Now. It was also equipped with a water- and dust-resistant body.

In the same 2014, Motorola released its smartwatch named 360. It used TI OMAP 3 chip, had 512 Mb of memory, 4 Gb storage capacity and an LCD 320x290 pixels display.

Several companies, including Microsoft, Acer, Toshiba, Sony, BlackBerry and so on were also developing and releasing some wearable 'smart' devices in recent years. Even some small companies, funded with Kickstarter campaign, like Pebble, appeared on the horizon. By the way, the last one managed to sell about 1,000,000 watches in 2014.

Will smartwatch replace the smartphones?

When the wearable smart devices market boomed in 2015, many people forecasted that smartwatches would replace smartphones in the next 5 to 10 years. This was reasoned with the functionality of the watches, their simplicity and compactness. However, this suggestion seems not so real.

Smartwatches will be additive to smartphones. The synchronization of Apple Watch with Apple iPhone 6 is the best example for this. These devices have different spheres of usage. Besides, smartwatches have their own issues that are to be solved by the suppliers. The short battery life is one of them.

It is obvious that the tiny screens of smartwatches won't be able to replace the display of a mobile phone and the same principle can't work with tablets. That's why brands like Apple and Samsung may not be worried about the decreasing demand.

What should we expect from the smartwatch market in 10-20 years?

On the other hand, we can't predict what smartwatches will look like in 10 years. The same thing could be said about these devices in 20 years. That's why it is impossible to make such kind of forecasting for such a dynamic market.

It can be claimed for sure that the market of wearable smart devices itself will continue to grow, presenting us with some new features and functions and hitting new records in the volume of sales. The only way is to wait and watch.


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