The Apple Watch has claimed 52 percent of global smartwatch shipments in 2015, despite launching at the end of April, according to a report from IT research firm Juniper.
Its popularity far eclipsed that of rival vendors, with Android Wear shipments comprising less than 10 percent of sales for the year, according to the report.
"We expect Apple to remain the largest single player, as it has been the most heavily-marketed smartwatch to date and iOS users typically have more disposable income to spend on devices like smartwatches," research author James Moar told eWEEK. "We do anticipate Android Wear devices to gain in market share in the coming years as prices for the devices drop, taking Apple’s market share down."
However, Moar noted smartwatches are expected to remain optional additional purchases, and unless Apple allows other OSs more customization through iOS--such as opening up more notification customization and app options for Android Wear in iOS--it will stay the most popular player due to its users’ demographics.
According to the research, Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear S2 has not achieved strong sales volumes since it launched in November despite being well received.
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.
The research demonstrates how the continued lack of a strong use case for smartwatches means that, Apple Watch aside, the market thus far has been driven by lower priced devices with more basic functionality.
These devices, which range 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.
"We expect Android Wear to gain share in the coming years, as devices like the Asus ZenWatch 2 have shown that relatively inexpensive smartwatches on the platform are now possible, and releases like Casio’s Smart Outdoor WSD-F10 and the Moto 360 2 Sport show that the basic specs can be varied to produce slightly different use cases," Moar said. "The good reception of the S2 is also likely to establish Tizen as a viable smartwatch platform, supported by its integration into Samsung’s smart home offerings."
He explained that this will start to transform the smartwatch into more of an “everything device,” similar to smartphones, but the form factor will limit this, as will certain social behaviors, as the weirdness of talking to your watch in public will limit the usefulness of voice commands.
"We also expect more software players to emerge, making smartwatches more appealing – at present most vendors are simply adapting existing mobile software to a different screen size, but dedicated smartwatch software players are slowly emerging," Moar noted.