Hybrid watches to drive smartwatch sales, says Juniper Research

Watches that appear to be analogue models but integrate smartwatch features will make up more than half of the smartwatch market by 2022, according to Juniper Research.

This means that nearly 80 million hybrid smartwatches, such as Fossil Q and Nokia Steel, will be shipped by 2022, up 460 per cent from an estimated 14 million last year. However, for digital-display smartwatches like Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic, Juniper lowers the rate of growth to 160 per cent.

This slower growth has caused several manufacturers, including Huawei, Motorola and Sony, to leave the space, says Juniper’s new report, Smartwatches: Trends, Vendor Strategies & Forecasts 2018-2022. Those staying in play are pivoting toward specific uses, mainly fitness, which Apple, Casio, Samsung and others have emphasised in recent releases.

“The smartwatch market is refining itself into a series of specific-use cases”, says research author James Moar. “This is having an impact on every aspect of smartwatches, from their design for increasingly specialised uses to their sale through specific retailers. While most vendors cannot necessarily hope to reach a broad coverage, the industry as a whole is here to stay.”

Despite the renewed interest in hybrids, Juniper expects individual players to produce few smartwatches. Hybrid watch manufacturers generally ship fewer than 2 million units annually.

An exception is Fossil, which has released many display and hybrid smartwatches. It is forecast to ship more than 6 million smartwatches annually by 2020.

Meanwhile, the report has found that different connectivity technologies are becoming more prevalent for smartwatches, with GPS expected to be an element for nearly half of all smartwatches by 2022. In comparison, growth will be limited for near-field communication NFC technology as this is currently locked into specific ecosystems. Juniper does not foresee any change to this in the foreseeable future.

Juniper Research provides research and analytical services for the global hi-tech communications sector, and has also just issued a complimentary white paper for vendors, Why Most Smartwatches ‘Fail’.

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