The Apple Watch quickly captured 52 percent of the global smartwatch market in 2015, even though the first Apple Watches didn't go on sale until last April.
That's the conclusion of a new report by Juniper Research, which found that the popularity of the Apple Watch eclipsed the shipments of competing products from rival companies in less than a year. In comparison, smartwatches that run Android Wear make up less than 10 percent of sales in 2015, according to the report, Smartwatches: Trends, Vendor Strategies & Forecasts 2016-2020.
So far, the lack of a strong use case for smartwatches has caused consumer sales to lag, said the report, which was written by Juniper analyst James Moar. "The smartwatch is now a category waiting for a market," Moar said in a statement. "Newer devices have offered more polished looks and subtly different functions, but no large changes in device capabilities or usage. With smartwatch functions established, it is now up to consumers to decide if they want them, rather than technology companies providing more reasons."
The competing Samsung Gear S2, which runs on Tizen, hasn't been a huge seller since it launched in November even though it has been received well in reviews, wrote Moar. "Most other smartwatch sales are currently coming from cheaper, simpler devices from a range of smaller players, such as Martian, X and Razer, the latter with the recently-announced Nabu Watch."
What that has meant so far in the marketplace is that sales have "been driven by lower priced devices with more basic functionality," according to the report. "These devices, from the Breitling B55 Connected to the Martian Guess Connected, are typically providing basic notification and tracking functions, without an app-capable operating system on the device itself."
Overall, the report states that "while many smartwatch vendors have produced ranges of watches, allowing for customization and price segmentation, there have been no great leaps forward that have revolutionized the category."
Juniper Research did not immediately respond to an eWEEK request for additional comments about the report.
Since its release last April, the Apple Watch has already received an updated operating system, watchOS 2, which delivers a wide range of new features and options as well as new tools to allow developers to add more future functions. The updated watchOS 2 software gives developers the ability to build faster, more powerful apps running natively on the Apple Watch, while also offering new watch faces and new communications capabilities in the device's Mail, Friends and Digital Touch apps, according to an earlier eWEEK story.
Reports late last year said that Apple is preparing to unveil its second-generation Apple Watch 2 smartwatch at a special launch event in March. Reports of an improved Apple Watch began not long after the original device debuted. Among the rumors for a second-generation Apple Watch 2 smartwatch are a built-in FaceTime video camera, more independence from accompanying iPhones and additional models at varying price levels.
The reports focused on an HD video camera being integrated into the front of the watch, as well as the ability for wearers to receive and send texts, emails or app updates without having to be tethered to an accompanying iPhone, as the original watch requires. The front video camera would allow Watch wearers to video conference with other users.
The increased iPhone independence would be made possible due to a new WiFi-enabled chipset, which will also offer a "find my watch" feature. Apple also is likely working on power and battery tweaks so that new features don't cause the existing battery pack to run down more quickly.
Other rumors about a next-gen Apple Watch indicated that the company is looking at the creation of additional watch models priced between its cheapest devices ($249) and its midrange watches ($549), according to reports.
First-generation Apple Watches start at $349 for the Apple Watch Sport version, which is available with a silver or space-gray aluminum body and with wristbands in many colors. The standard Apple Watch starts at $549 for a 38mm-wide version or $599 for a 42mm-wide model. Prices for the 38mm version can rise to $1,049, while prices for the 42mm model can go up to $1,099, depending on the watchband selected. The regular Apple Watch can be purchased with a fluoroelastomer band or one of three different leather bands. The company's luxury version of Apple Watch is the Apple Watch Edition, with a price tag of $10,000. The most expensive version of Apple Watch, the 18-karat gold Edition version, is priced at $17,000.