Android Wearable sales in 2014 weren't the big hit that was expected so far, but in 2015, that will change after the Apple Watch goes on sale to consumers and drives a new frenzy in expected sales around the world.
In 2014, Android Wear device shipments hit 720,000 units globally, out of some 4.6 million smart wearable bands that were shipped, according to a new Feb. 11 report from analyst firm Canalys.
Those 720,000 sales were disappointing to vendors, Chris Jones, a Canalys vice president and analyst, told eWEEK. Android Wear was new in 2014, having been announced last spring and then having some of its first devices displayed at the Google I/O developer's conference last June. The first Android Wear devices hit the markets soon after.
"The hardware was not that impressive to start," including the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live smartwatch, said Jones. "They looked rushed in terms of design."
As evidence of that, LG quickly replaced the original G Watch with its G Watch R, according to Jones. "The Motorola Moto 360 got the most favorable reaction at first in terms of design, but Motorola was under severe supply constraints" and couldn't build enough to meet demand, hurting its overall sales. "Most people were slightly disappointed with the first designs."
And part of the slow consumer reaction was due to the Android Wear platform itself, said Jones. "We do believe that there's a lot of work to do with Android Wear as well. We do believe that Google knows what to do to improve this."
One issue is that Android Wear devices today focus primarily on notifications that reflect what is happening on a user's smartphone, said Jones, but those notifications don't go far enough.
"We don't think that's enough for consumers to go out and buy one of these devices today," he said. "The devices need to do more than that. Just showing phone notifications on your wrist is not enough."
What will change this situation, he said, is the arrival of the Apple Watch in April, with its built-in emphasis on health and wellness apps and information. "We do believe that the Apple watch will reflect this. It will bring the attention about the devices to a bigger audience."
Apple is also likely to market the new product in many more countries around the world, which will further drive demand for wearables, he said. "We all know that Apple is going to market this in their usual fashion, with a big launch and a lot of marketing. It will bring the devices to the attention of a broader audience. It will drive others to do better things."
The wearables market will be "kick-started with the arrival of the Apple watch, even though everyone doesn't have an Apple phone," he said.
By the end of the year, Canalys expects Apple to be the global leader in the wearables market, he said. And that market will grow substantially, to probably several times the 4.6 million wearable bands sold in 2014, said Jones.