Are Modern Day Smartwatches Really All That Smart?

by CXOtoday News Desk    Oct 26, 2016


Once upon a time, only the smart ones were considered eligible for a smartwatch. To be precise, it wasn’t exactly a long time ago that smartwatches took over the aspirational tag from the smartphone. Both young and the not-so-young professionals made a beeline for these watches that could sync with your smartphone, read emails, pay your bills, monitor your health… etc. etc. In fact, apart from making you a hot cuppa coffee, it did pretty much everything.

At least, that is what the manufacturers - from Samsung to Apple and everyone else in between made us believe. In fact, even in their latest launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke adoringly about this wrist-band, claiming that it could track your fitness, your emails, your music and even your car keys. It could do a lot of the work that your smartphone does, they said. It was your third screen, exclaimed the geeks, who named the laptop and the phone as the first two.

However, barely three years after these gadgets appeared on the screen, the buzz seems to have reduced to a mere whimper. The demand for wearables have tanked considerably. Even technology enthusiasts, both at the enterprise level as well as among end-users, aren’t exactly fawning over the new range of smartwatches that are hitting the stands. 

A new industry report from IDC states about smartwatch shipments that experienced “significant” declines in the third quarter. The total shipments were down 51.6 percent from the same time last year, said IDC, adding that only 2.7 million units were shipped in Q3 2016 versus 5.6 million in Q3 2015.

IDC attributes issues related to launch timings, Android Wear delays, and more to the drop in the number. As Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team explained, “Apple revealed a new look and feel to watchOS that did not arrive until the launch of the second generation watch at the end of September.

Google’s decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0 has repercussions for its OEM partners as to whether to launch devices before or after the holidays. Samsung’s Gear S3, announced at IFA in September, has yet to be released. Collectively, this left vendors relying on older, aging devices to satisfy customers.”

This is a clear indication how smartwatches are having a hard time finding traction among users. “It has also become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. 


Despite its sharp sales drop, Apple maintained the top position with an estimated 1.1 million units sold and a 41 percent market share, according to IDC. Garmin was the number two brand with sales of 600,000 and a 20.5 percent market share, followed by Samsung with 400,000 and a 14.4 percent share, according to IDC.

“Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity. However, moving forward, differentiating the experience of a smartwatch from the smartphone will be key and we’re starting to see early signs of this as cellular integration is rising and as the commercial audience begins to pilot these devices.”