Why is everyone so far behind Apple in the smartwatch market?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why is everyone so far behind Apple in the smartwatch market?
It's no longer a big secret that iPhones aren't doing as well as they used to from both a volume and profit standpoint, but after so many years of relying primarily on this segment to drive overall business growth, Apple has managed to adapt incredibly quickly to a stagnating mobile industry, focusing more than ever on the increasingly lucrative Services and Wearables divisions.

The latter, which lumps together Apple Watch and AirPods sales, just reported over $5.5 billion in revenue for the April - June 2019 timeframe, up an astounding 48 percent from an already impressive result posted during the same period last year. While the Cupertino-based tech giant doesn't seem to care about the shipment figures of these two exceptionally popular product lineups, we certainly do, which is where market research firms come in.


The International Data Corporation, for instance, estimated Apple sold almost 13 million wearable devices between January and March 2019, while Counterpoint Research says the company was responsible for shipping one in three smartwatches around the world in this first calendar quarter. The number is that much more remarkable when considering this industry is actually thriving (unlike the lifeless smartphone market), and according to all the long-term forecasts, Apple's dominance is in no imminent danger of being challenged.

But exactly how did we get in this situation where Samsung, Fitbit, and Huawei's combined share barely makes up half of Apple's smartwatch sales numbers? Obviously, it's complicated, but here are some possible answers:

Google isn't even trying anymore


Quick, name three Wear OS-powered smartwatches. How about two? Okay, I'll settle for a good one, as long as you actually know somebody who owns it and would recommend it to a friend for something other than a stylish design or reasonable price point. Crickets, right?

 

Naturally, Google is entirely to blame for all the shortcomings of an Android Wear platform that had Samsung, Motorola, and LG in its corner back in 2014. In the meantime, the lovely Moto 360 (flat tire and all) met its untimely demise, Samsung left the sinking ship to nurture its own watchOS alternative, while LG is barely trying anymore, just like Google.

Instead of actively working on improving things like battery life, health monitoring, and overall system fluidity or even taking a gamble on a flagship Pixel Watch as a sign of trust in the future of Wear OS, the search giant rebranded the platform last year, focused on small things and UI refinements rather than big and bold changes in the latest updates, and tried to build up an upgraded Snapdragon chip that's not much better than its ancient predecessor. No wonder Wear OS has become an afterthought for most market research companies, leaving us reading between the lines of their reports to find out its share sits well below 12 percent in the US.

That's a genuinely embarrassing number for an operating system that was born before the Apple Watch lineup.

Samsung focused on the wrong things for far too long


Speaking of the Apple Watch birth, did you know that the first version of the world's best-selling wearable device needed a measly eight months to claim more than half of 2015's smartwatch shipments? Meanwhile, 2014-released products like the Samsung Gear Live, LG G Watch, and Moto 360 were still trying to find their feet. In a way, that continues to be the case for Samsung's smartwatch portfolio, which has yet to reach the maturity and stability of the Apple Watch lineup.


The Apple Watch Series 4 doesn't look radically different from the Series 0 on the outside, but when it comes to functionality, power, convenience, and ease of use, there's absolutely no comparing the two. In contrast, the Galaxy Watch Active has almost nothing in common with the design of early Gear devices, but deep down, very little has drastically changed. Like most non-Apple smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch and Watch Active are still seeking that compelling use case to help them break free from being considered by many people mere smartphones for their wrists.

Too much experimentation and, yes, variety can send the wrong message to customers, who want to trust you have a long-term plan of improving and refining a general concept rather than constantly trying new things for the sake of... trying. Looking back, it's obvious Apple decided early on its smartwatches would attempt to keep their owners healthy, always connected, and... alive instead of dazzling them with fancy designs and unique navigation methods.


In other words, if Samsung ever wants to catch up with Apple, it should pick a form factor and a name already and stick with those while trying to bring meaningful upgrades and new features to the table. There's nothing wrong with admitting you're one or two steps behind the market leader, but only by removing unnecessary distractions (like this whole Touch Bezel effort) will the company stand a chance to advance from its current underdog status.

Huawei, Fitbit, and all the others need to do better as well


It's honestly shocking that the world's second-largest smartphone vendor and one of the tablet market's biggest recent risers merely accounted for 2.8 percent of global smartwatch sales during Q1 2019. But that microscopic share is the result of a somewhat scattered and inconsistent effort of gaining industry relevance. Like Samsung, Huawei seems to have realized Wear OS is a losing card, but unlike Tizen, the Chinese tech giant doesn't have a solid backup to play instead. No, Hongmeng is apparently not a thing.


As for Fitbit, the company sure has the activity tracking angle covered professionally and reliably, but that's only one of the key boxes a smartwatch has to tick nowadays to be considered a decent challenger to the throne. Garmin also has a lot of work to do in many other important areas, from apps to convenience, while Fossil is arguably Google's most productive and valuable hardware-making partner, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be translating into mainstream popularity. 

All these brands (and others like them) should substantially step up their advertising efforts, focus on identifying consumer needs they can answer, and perhaps pressure Google into vastly improving Wear OS (or even start from scratch with a new platform) if they want to eat up a larger slice of a rapidly increasing global smartwatch pie.

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58 Comments

1. Kdk2020

Posts: 42; Member since: Apr 27, 2016

It's acc crazy how refined and well made the Apple watch is. I use a Galaxy watch and I miss my Series 3

48. shm224

Posts: 295; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

well made Toy's R'us

2. OneLove123

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I have not seen one person with a smartwatch, yet.

11. oldskool50 unregistered

I know you're lying. Unless you're locked in some basement somewhere, I am sure you have. There is no way you haven't seen anyone wearing a smartwatch, even if you didn't recognize it as being such.

18. OneLove123

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I don't go around looking if they have a cheap apple watch or a Rolex.

50. mackan84

Posts: 609; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

So for one comment you said that you haven’t seen any smart watches and the next one you realized you haven’t even seen any kind of watch. Now sorry for not branding Apple Watch as cheap but are these the only two kinds of watches you would recognize?

32. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

I see people with smart watches everywhere. Apple and others. Mostly the others are fitness trackers but I see Samsung quite a few times too.

33. lyndon420

Posts: 6860; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Same here. I don't have much of a need for a smartwatch yet. Maybe when I'm elderly with heart problems I'll look into it.

80. TechT

Posts: 6; Member since: May 31, 2018

You truly live on a cattle ranch, I guess :P

3. vgking9699

Posts: 205; Member since: Mar 01, 2019

Well a huge chunk of android users are too poor of people to buy any smart watch Just think, there’s a big market of android users who got their phones as free government phones from the Obama phone business and many many uses from boost mobile, Virgin Mobile, straight talk, metro pcs and cricket wireless that just from the fact they went with those very cheap carriers tell me that those people are probably not people who are also go spend hundreds of dollars on a smart watch Where as people who buy iPhones are typically people with money to spend and most will want the Apple Watch to go along with their whole apple ecosystem

7. OneLove123

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Don't talk about yourself, bro

8. Mikele

Posts: 184; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

Fella not money but interest for Apple watches. For me, I'm on fast lane which Apple products lack. I'm using KOSPET watch with 4G LTE and it's ahead of Apple watch

13. oldskool50 unregistered

Because everyone who buys a smartwatch is rich? Come on dude, stop being to conceited and stupid. if poor people didn't buy Apple products, they wouldn't even be in business. Why do you think Apple sales are so high in the US? It's because poor people have a means to buy, it's called debt/credit. Neither Apple or Android OEM's have high sales outside the US on equal level. Everyone in the world is poor, except for 5% of society. 5% of the world population is not enough to keep a compnay like Apple in business. It's poor people who buy the vast majority of any product in the world. So in reality, you're talking about yourself. Yes some people have less money that others. but there are plenty of people with money, who are simply not interested in buying garbage.

19. OneLove123

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Yep, most people that have an iPhone are in the hood and on good stamps.

34. vgking9699

Posts: 205; Member since: Mar 01, 2019

You are stupid, those are the people who are free Obama phones which are always a old ass android phone with like android 4 or android 5 This is why iOS App Store makes nearly twice the money as google play even with google play technically having more apps Which also accounts for why the android adoption of android versions is still like only 10% of android 8 while most android users are still android 6 or older

49. shm224

Posts: 295; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

I live in Two Bridges in NYC and there are a lot of poor folks with iPhones. All Chinese delivery men there also seem to sport one.

15. LAgurl

Posts: 116; Member since: Dec 05, 2018

Vgking stfup dude Stop talking about yourself bro. Android user here and that's all bulls**t . I do not have boost ,metro cricket , virgin or an Obama phone . As a matter of fact I am waiting for the note 10+ for Verizon . Since I have both Verizon and At&t . On At&t I have an Ipad pro and that's probably the only apple product I have , And no I am deff not broke I never ever in my life gotten a "Free phone" I always buy the latest and greatest phone out there , people that know me always see me with the latest phone and yes I can afford them . So stop thinking us with Android are broke . Because your are dead wrong

25. tedkord

Posts: 17452; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

And there's a 100% chunk of people who wrote the comment this is responding to, who are too retarded to put on their own clothes. Years of eating lead paint chips and licking windows has doomed them to the shortest bus. So insecure are they, that they need to put down others to convince themselves they're smart. They live under the dunning kruger blanket, which they believe is an power blanket.

35. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

And here you are teddy, putting down others. You are very insecure, and you need help.

75. MihaiRO

Posts: 31; Member since: Jun 07, 2019

I only had a 3GS in my life!I will not buy an Iphone anymore!I always swap between the last flagships of Sony,Samsung and now I am happy about the quality of Mate 20 Pro!I will never buy an over rated brand,made for people who wants to show the status,an apple on the mirror and nothing else...in the phone or into the brain!

4. strawberry

Posts: 116; Member since: Feb 20, 2019

apple watch is very popular in asian countries. a lot of people are wearing them

5. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Another main difference: Apple selling their apple watch while Samsung and others are making their smartwatches as freebies. But one big question: if Galaxy watches are freebies then why Samsung smartwatch market still a meh? Could it be than galaxy sales are also meh? and that’s is why Samsung just reported 56% profit decline.

17. raky_b

Posts: 420; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Freebies, but only for US customers. Don't forget that even though Samsung's devices cost more in rest of the world, people who still buys their devices are not getting things with it, just a device that you have (over) paid for.

31. midan

Posts: 3097; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Freebies here in EU too. For example buy Samsung TV and you get free Samsung smartwatch or smartphone. Gear VR propably been most popular freebie, they really tried to make that thing popular when in reality no-one didn't want them even free

61. raky_b

Posts: 420; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

I am croatian in norway, (understand few languages) so when I decide to buy my phone I am looking in at least 5 different EU markets... never got a freebies with Samsung's flagship phone.

45. TBomb

Posts: 1632; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Samsung Smartwatch Market "still a meh" because not everyone who doesn't buy Apple buys a Samsung. Then you have the people who do buy a Samsung but they got it outside of the promotional period. MAYBE it's because people who prefer iOS and Apple products think differently than those who prefer an alternative. THEN since they think differently, they don't see the need to buy a smartwatch so they don't buy it. o.O That doesn't agree with the "Apple is best" story line though... so I must just be butthurt.

55. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Then what about those many health insurance companies in the USA that offer the Apple Watch 4 at $50? I've had 5 letters this year alone with that particular offer. My parents have had the same offer and they're using a different company. That's how Apple really manages these numbers. That's why outside the US smartwatch sales numbers are significantly lower and you can barely find an Apple Watch in the wild. Personally smartwatches just don't appeal to me, they don't offer anything that's really worth the cost of buying one.

6. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

Well, if you guys wanted a bunch of stupid troll comments, mission accomplished!

38. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Yep, here's Vancetastic making stupid troll comments, mission accomplished PA luring him out!

41. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

I’m sorry to have hurt your feelings, little one.

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