Wearable Device Ecosystem

Wearable Device Ecosystems provides a deep dive into the fast-developing market where there is no dominant paradigm in terms of form factor, ecosystem, enabling technologies or use cases.

September 9, 2014 14:09 nmawston

After months of speculation, Apple finally unveiled today its Apple Watch.

It is a stainless steel, aluminum or gold-plated device that enters a global smartwatch market currently growing at +750% annually, according to our WDE (Wearables) research service.

The Apple Watch Edition / Sport Edition is a premium-tier smartwatch that will be launched commercially worldwide in Q1 2015. The launch is after the western holiday gift-giving season in the US and somewhat disappointing. But it will meet the Chinese holiday season in Asia. Its retail ASP of US$349 or more is relatively expensive. 

The hardware design of the Watch is shaped like a mini iPhone that sits on your wrist. It is a micro-slate formfactor with a "crown" on the right-side for controlling the software and apps. The hardware styling looks attractive, but it is quite a male-centric design, and some female users may arguably think twice before purchasing.

The Watch comes in 2 sizes, 3 casing materials and 6 band-types (e.g. leather, metal, plastic), so visual personalization is clearly of importance. Battery charging is done via a wired connector, which is a little disappointing that it is not fully wireless.

The Watch apps are focused around fitness, health, sport and messaging. For example, there is a heart-pulse-rate monitor, which employs infrared, LEDs and photosensors. You can use the Friends app to send messages to your buddies. There is NFC included in the smartwatch, so Apple Pay will work with Apple Watch -- this is good news for the mobile proximity-payments ecosystem and will help to accelerate its usage through more devices.

Overall, there is little revolutionary in the Apple Watch. Most features and designs in it are already available in other smartwatches from Samsung and others. But what Apple has done is to package its various parts into a single package that many global consumers will find compelling. We expect Apple's Watch to instantly become the world's best-selling smartwatch.

PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.

September 5, 2014 13:54 mwilkins

For our third and final day at IFA, we were joined by a cast of thousands as IFA opened its doors to the general public, as the business of doing business begins for the exhibitors.

Intel held its press conference where it revealed the Core M processor, designed for 2-in-1, tablets, and detachables. Core M offers 3X the compute performance, and 2X the graphics performance of the leading tablets, according to Intel. The company also said it is the world’s first 14nm product. Systems using the chip will be available in October.

We also spent time playing with a forthcoming smartwatch from Alcatel, which we understand will be priced very aggressively around the 100 Euro mark. The round display device has a simplistic design, which also carries over into the simple design of the interface. The product is a companion device, in that it will use the mobile data connection of a smartphone for its needs. We expect to see the device launched in 2014.

September 4, 2014 14:40 mwilkins

Day two at IFA in Berlin was quiet on the wearable devices front, after the announcements we had yesterday from Asus (ZenWatch) and Sony (Smartwatch 3 and SmartBand Talk).The announcements today focused around tablets and smartphones.

In the morning Microsoft unleashed a number of smartphone announcements into what it describes as the "affordable category" of the market ($40 - $200). First up was the Lumia 830, the “affordable flagship” which will retail for 330 Euros (before taxes and subsidiaries). The 830 was followed by the Lumia 735 and Lumia 730, again playing into the affordable segment, with the 730 being a dual-SIM 3G model, and the 735 a single-SIM LTE device. The 735 and 730 will retail for 219 and 199 Euros respectively. At the announcement Microsoft also launched a number of new accessories including the Screen Share Accessory (79 Euros), which wirelessly connects to the smartphone and a TV via HDMI, allowing pictures and videos recorded on the Lumia device to be shown on a big screen. A wireless charger was also announced (the Wireless Charging Plate) which pulses light to communicate smartphone notifications to the user (when charging). Microsoft said all Lumia devices announced today will be available in selected markets by the end of September 2014.

At a busy press conference in the afternoon Lenovo announced the Vibe X2 and Vibe Z2, its second generation 5 series (top of the range) smartphones. It then directed its attention at PCs and 2-in-1s. The Horizon 2S was announced, a 19.5-inch, 2-in-1 table-top PC, capable of 2 modes of operation (upright in stand mode or lying flat). Then came the ThinkPad Helix 2-in-1, a sub-800g 2-in-1, equipped with an 11.6-inch display, and five modes of operation (laptop, stand, tent, tablet, docked).

Other announcements included the Ascend Mate 7 and G7 smartphones from Huawei, Toughpad FZ-E1 and FZ-X1 ruggedized tablets from Panasonic, and the Desire 820 smartphone from HTC.

September 3, 2014 12:39 mwilkins

The IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin, Germany, kicked off in style today (day 1), and wearables were right at the front. Analysts from our WDE (Wearables) research service are on the show floor.

Asus announced the ZenWatch, representing the entry of Asus into the wearable devices market. Running Google’s Android Wear OS, the ZenWatch smartwatch features a curved 2.5-inch display (which is way too big, in our view), 4GB of local storage, and the ability to use straps from regular wristwatches. The device includes a heart-rate monitor and other activity tracking features such as pedometer. The ZenWatch will be available in select markets worldwide for the western holiday season with mid-to-high-tier retail pricing in the region of US$250.

Sony announced the Smartwatch 3 and the SmartBand Talk. Smartwatch 3 represents the first Android Wear OS-based smartwatch from Sony, with the company having previously used its own operating system for Smartwatch 1 and 2. The SmartBand Talk is a fitness band which allows the wearer to receive telephone calls when connected to the companion smartphone. The devices will begin rolling out globally in the fall. Pricing was not yet disclosed, but we expect it to be positioned in the top half of the market.

At Samsung’s UnPacked Event, the company spent time discussing the recently announced Gear S, the first cellular-enabled smartwatch in the Gear range. Samsung then took the wraps off of the Gear VR, a virtual-reality headset that uses the Note 4 phablet (also announced today) as its display. Samsung was joined onstage by Oculus CTO, John Carmack, to discuss the challenges of VR headsets, such as battery consumption. The Gear VR will be available later in 2014. Pricing was again not disclosed, but we expect it to be among the higher price-tiers. Today's event confirmed Samsung continues to be among the innovation leaders in the wearables / accesories space.

September 1, 2014 06:48 wshi

When Nokia made the announcement on 29 August to provide a beta version HERE navigation service on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones as well as two navigation apps to Tizen-based Samsung smartwatches, we almost poured ourselves a glass of good wine to “celebrate”. It’s not so much that we’re fans of HERE and Galaxy (we are, as we are fans of all good services and devices), as the happiness to have our predictions vindicated once again.  Late last year when we penned this piece to discuss the significance of HERE’s deal with Tizen, and predicted that it might have just “opened the door at Samsung”, we got a suspicious look rather than approving nods.  Now the latest development made the “mission impossible” look very possible. 

According to the announcement, HERE will provide a full suite of navigation services exclusively to selected Galaxy smartphones, as well as provide dedicated apps to Tizen-based smartwatches from Samsung, both the existing models and the upcoming Gear S.  As suspicious as I have been with the desirability of smartwatches, the new navigation feature supplied by HERE to enable the Gear smartwatches to operate independent of the smartphones, among other features, will be a big improvement on user friendliness. For example, I would no longer need to wear a big phone on my arm (they’re getting bigger by the day) when I run outside.

HERE has a few advantages over Google Maps, not least its offline mode, and the capability to save maps of entire countries, which Nokia doesn’t miss the chance to promote.  Beyond this, the acquisition of Medio in June 2014 should enable HERE to deliver personalized map and navigation experiences to users.  And of course the very fact that this deal actually took place is significant in itself.  To call this a coup may be an overstatement, as HERE will sit side by side with Google Maps on the Galaxy smartphones.  As was highlighted in our analysis on Samsung’s content and service strategies, Samsung is bound by the agreement with Google that it has to take the whole suite of Google services.  However it certainly further boosts HERE’s chance to go horizontal to other smartphone makers than Microsoft.  Now that it has produced an Android version to showcase on the market leader , there is no reason why HERE would not go to other leading Android (both Google endorsed and independent) handset makers, after the exclusivity with Galaxy expires.

August 11, 2014 06:33 nmawston

According to new research from our WDE (Wearables) service, global smartwatch shipments grew a healthy +400% YoY in Q2 2014. The market was driven by Tizen, as Samsung migrated its smartwatch portfolio to the OS. This published report, available to clients, tracks global smartwatch shipments and marketshare by operating system by quarter for 2013 and 2014. It can be used by mobile stakeholders to track the size and growth rate of the important smartwatch market.

July 18, 2014 19:53 nmawston

According to our Wearables (WDE) research service, global smartwatch sales will grow a healthy +750% in 2014. The smartwatch is clearly a high-growth market.

Rumors abound across the industry that Microsoft / Nokia will enter the smartwatch fray for the first time in the US during October or November 2014. Talk is of a fitness tracker with 5 to 15 biometric sensors that integrate closely with Microsoft apps.

Microsoft has been here before, with its digital SPOT watch launched back in 2004. The SPOT delivered snippets of light info, such as weather forecasts, via FM radio waves. The SPOT was a flop.

What does Microsoft need to do to succeed in the smartwatch market this time around? We recommend at least three core strategies:

1. Any Microsoft smartwatch must look and feel like a traditional wristwatch. It is a proven formfactor;

2. Pricing must be keen. Our research indicates US consumers are surprisingly price-sensitive for almost all brands except Apple;

3. A high-profile fitness or sports brand should be introduced at co-launch. For example, Apple is rumored to be co-launching with Nike for its new "iWatch" portfolio.

July 17, 2014 13:34 nmawston

Wearable devices have the potential to grow into a significant consumer market, benefiting from the ubiquity of the smartphone, and the growing self-health movement; but their success, of course, is not guaranteed. With sensor-laden wearable devices there are a unique set of challenges to be overcome. In this report, available to clients, we examine five major strategic challenges associated with key wearable devices and raise questions that will need to be addressed next year and beyond.

May 18, 2014 09:12 nmawston

According to new research from our WDE (Wearables) service, global smartwatch shipments grew a healthy +250% YoY in Q1 2014. The market was driven heavily by Samsung and its Galaxy Gear model, which is outperforming all major rivals like Motorola and Pebble. This published report -- available to clients -- tracks global smartwatch shipments and marketshare by hardware vendor by quarter for 2013 and Q1 2014. It can be used by device makers, component suppliers, operators, software developers, content suppliers and other stakeholders to determine the size and growth rate of the global smartwatch market.

May 12, 2014 12:34 mwilkins

In new research from the Wearable Device Ecosystems (WDE) service looking at enabling technologies in Smartglasses, WiFi will be an important technology for the category, found in 75% of devices shipping in 2015. The technology will allow smartglass users to upload video they record on the integrated HD camera to YouTube and other social media websites.

Strategy Analytics expects WiFi-enabled smartglasses to experience growth of 240% in 2015, as the market continues to gain traction and as cellular-enabled penetration remains low amongst the segment.


This published report, available to clients now, provides global and regional forecasts on the penetration of five key enabling technologies in the smartglasses category (including Augmented Reality, GPS, and WiFi), extending out to 2018.