The selfie-staging master puppeteers at Samsung are one of the only tech companies in the world seriously competing in the wearables space. Which is why, in what might be the most peculiar market research study you’ll read today, Samsung was found to command a hefty 70% slice of the smartwatch market. That’s a significant piece of the timepiece pie, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Today’s analysis comes from Strategy Analytics, which found that “global smartwatch shipments grew a healthy +250%” year-to-year for Q1 2014. That’s “shipments”–not watches sold–and only includes the Galaxy Gear, which was released in September 2013. The slightly newer Gear 2 and svelter Gear Fit were not included in the analyses.
Let’s break that up a bit. CNet notes that the findings show two things: 1. That stores are keen on stocking their shelves with Gears, because “shops don’t make a habit of ordering stuff they don’t think they can sell”; and 2. That Samsung “dominates the market for smartwatches.” Both of which are partly true. But that 70% figure isn’t a crystal clear indicator of market demand, nor does it provide an accurate representation of the current smartwatch landscape.
As the Guardian detailed in April, the Gear came as a free add-on with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 smartphones, and eBay is teeming with loads and loads of Galaxy Gear smartwatches–as of writing this there are 983 results in the “smart watch” category, and over 3,000 under “cell phone accessories”–that presumably came pre-bundled with the phablets. People can’t seem to get rid of them fast enough.
And as it stands, the current competitive landscape for wearable tech is anything but competitive. We have yet to see Google and Motorola’s Android Wear watches stack up (we’ll know in July, when the first units might hit stores), to say nothing of whatever Cupertino might be secretly cooking up with all its recent hires.
That said, the wrist isn’t the only body part (sorry) that Samsung is after. The company recently filed for a trademark application for “Gear Blink” in its native Korea, which is being billed as Samsung’s take on Google Glass.
Of course, that all fits within the Samsung mantra of iterating fast and going big. The company is more than happy to release dozens of devices a year, as long as a few of those are hits. Smartwatches, though, might not fall into that category. Recent statistics paint a foreboding picture for the wearable landscape. An April study from Endeavor Partners found that one-third of Americans who own a wearable stop using it within the first six months. (Hence all the eBay listings, perhaps.)
Samsung might be the dominant player in the smartwatch game for now. But that’s partly because no one else is really playing.