While the product in itself is not new (Seiko having launched the first connected watch in 1990), they have moved into the spotlight in the last two years, rapidly coming to epitomize the new array of connected objects. Global electronics giants Apple, Huawei, Samsung, Asus and LG have now all launched and begun marketing their models and each electronics show brings a new wave of innovations.
Slow but steady growth
The market is new and, so far, its take-off has been a little slower than analysts predicted. Although Apple does not release its sales figures, the success of the Apple Watch appears relative. According to Slice Intelligence, its sales rose from 200,000 units a day since its release in April 2015 to around 5000 a day from July… Considering that Apple claims 75% of the market, its growth remains moderate at present. Analysts remain confident, however, even predicting that connected watches will be among the best-sellers of Christmas 2015. The figures announced are as impressive as they are varied: 20 million for Forrester from this year, 40 million according to Gartner and 100 million according to IHS by 2020…
Although take-off has been slow, it is nevertheless fairly certain that connected watches will soon become key objects in our daily lives. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, apart from the Apple Watch, compatibility is increasing and it is no longer necessary to combine the same brand of smartphone and watch, which should act as a liberating influence on the market. Secondly, in terms of marketing, prices are expected to come down in 2016, thereby expanding the market, as current price tags of between €300 to €400 make connected watches a high-end product.
However the real driving force behind the trend lies in the new uses they will help to introduce. Although some are open to accusations of gimmickry, the applications offered by connected watches make them natural companions for our smartphones – and new applications can make a real difference to our everyday lives. Indeed, the possibilities are boundless, from providing identification to open a door to withdrawing money, paying for a coffee or shopping, scanning a travel card or changing money. All these new services are in addition to those already present (telephone, reading SMS and emails, etc.), leading some analysts to believe that they could compete with smartphones. Some manufacturers, including LG and Samsung are even developing connected watches fitted with a SIM card to make them completely autonomous. At the start of 2016, Swiss watchmaker Swatch will meanwhile launch a watch for the Chinese market capable of making NFC payments, before rolling out the service in Switzerland and the United States.
One thing remains certain however. Security will be central to these new uses. Whether individuals want to connect, authenticate or pay, they will only use connected watches if they have absolute trust.