More than half a million Android Wear watches sold

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Today, Android Wear claims the top spot to be the most popular smart watch platform, with more than 500,000 smart watches sold.

According to Google Play, the Android Wear App, for the first time, shows more than 500,000 downloads. An Android Wear watch requires the Android Wear App in order to pair with a smart phone, so everyone with an Android Wear watch must download the app. However, if you do not have a watch, the app is useless, so no one should download the app if he/she does not have a watch. Thus, the number of app downloads should be a good approximation of how many Android Wear watches have been sold.

Back in March, it was reported that more than 400,000 pebble watches have been sold. Compared to Pebble, there are not only more Android Wear watches sold, but those sales also happened in a much shorter amount of time — a mere 5 months since its launch in July.

Although Android Wear leads today, it is widely expected that Apple Watch will shatter the record. Some estimates that Apple could sell 20 or 30 millions Apple Watches in the first year.

Some people still doubt that the smart watch market will take off, hopefully the Android Wear growth data provides a good counter argument. Another reason some are skeptical is because of their experience with simpler wearable devices, such as those activity trackers. Many people leave their tracker in drawers collecting dust after the novelty factor wears off. But I see smart watch is fundamentally different. With an open platform, creative developers will come up with interesting apps that increase the usefulness of the smart watches, and we all know that it is those novel apps that keep us engaged with the device. If you are looking for proof, check out our fitness app or golf app, which shows you some creative use of your watch. We see extremely high retention rate from users of our watch apps, compared to our phone app. I bet, once you discover a killer watch app, you will never think about putting your watch in the drawer again.

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How Apple is planning to pump up the smart watches market

Apple-Watch-logo-main1Some people say smart watches, like Android Wear watches or Apple Watch, are a product with no market and no need. The reasoning behind it is that we can already do everything a smart watch can do with our smart phone. So how could smart watches find a wide-spread adoption? I think Apple has the successful formula in mind already.

Market it as a fashion item

Smart Watch is distinct from our smart phone in that it is worn on our wrist. Since we often wear fashion items on our wrist, people would buy a watch just for the fashion reason alone. This is how the Swiss luxury watch industry survived the onslaught from cheap Japanese quartz watch competitors. Apple understands this lesson well. Unlike the original iPhone which was released with one model and one color, Apple Watch comes with 2 sizes, 6 different custom alloys including 2 18k gold alloy, 6 different bands with each band having several different colors, all these grouped into 3 distinct editions. It is a nightmare for supply chain SKU management, but this is what it takes to build a fashion item.

Migrate existing use cases, making them more convenient

All watch makers understand this point. They have all made glancing notification a top priority. Instead of pulling out your phone to see each incoming email or text, you can simply glance down your watch.

While Apple is doing the same thing, it is going one step beyond. Apple purchased Beats not only for their music streaming service, but more importantly for their headphone business. They are reportedly making an Apple branded bluetooth headphone, and I think this is designed for the Apple Watch. Listening to music is going to be an important use case. It is not only limited to young folks, I also observe many people like to listen to their iPod during workout. When you strap you iPod to your arm, a wired earphone may be acceptable, but if you were to listen to music from your Apple Watch on your wrist, the wire will be a significant disadvantage. Instead, a bluetooth headphone will greatly improve the experience. With Beats’ existing user base in the young audience, they can easily move these young folks off iPod onto Apple Watch. My prediction is that Apple Watch will function as a stand-alone music player even when it is not paired with an iPhone.

Create new use cases

A key difference of a smart watch from a smart phone is that it is worn on your wrist, thus it is finally able to track your fitness intimately. Apple emphasized on its use in health and fitness, and has designed a built-in fitness tracking app aimed at replacing activity trackers such as Fitbit or Jawbone. But, its tracking capability is beyond a simple fitness tracker.

For example, our Jamo Dance (Jamo Dance on Android) product could use the Apple Watch to track your dance moves. VimoFit product demonstrated that you could track in-home/in-gym exercises and automatically count repetitions with a watch’s built-in motion sensors, you can even use our VimoGolf product to track your golf swing, both are something not possible to do with just your mobile phone.

With the focus on the right design concepts and on key use cases, I think Apple has cracked the secret sauce on how to jump start the smart watch market. I would not be surprised if they sell tens of millions of Apple Watches in the first year. I would be the first in line to purchase one.