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Apple Watch to kick-start wearables market: Gartner

Research firm expects smartwatches to make up 40% of consumer wrist devices by 2016

Apple Watch to kick-start wearables market: Gartner
Gartner said that it expected Apple's offering to sell strongly, despite its high price

The release of the Apple Watch in 2015 will trigger considerable consumer interest in the wearables market, so much so that smartwatches will comprise about 40% of consumer wrist devices by 2016, according to Gartner.

While making no predictions on who will own the most of that market share, Gartner said that it expected Apple's offering to sell strongly, despite its high price. This would be reminiscent of the first iPhone launch, which saw Apple make extremely strong gains in the smartphone space in a relatively small timeframe.

"Apple has finally unveiled its Apple Watch, which we expect to trigger more consumer interest once it starts shipping in 2015," said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.

"Apple introduced three smartwatch models that will sell at a wide price range, with the lowest starting at $349. As with the iPhone, Apple's high-price strategy for the Watch will limit its market share; yet, with its attention to design and the user interface, we believe this product will attract many users."

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In contrast, Annette Zimmermann, another research director at Gartner, said that the Sony Smartwatch and Samsung Gear were early products that received a lot of press attention but less consumer interest. This, she said, was due to their "unclear value proposition and flawed design".

Zimmerman admitted, though, that even the features on the Android Wear platform were now beginning to show encouraging improvements. She said that consumers would value things such as voice search, turn-by-turn navigation, contextual reminders and voice notes.

"In 2014 we are seeing a few more positive developments in terms of design and user experience (UX) and we therefore expect consumers to show more interest in these products in the second half of the year," she said.

A recent consumer study conducted by Gartner at the beginning of the third quarter of 2014 gave some indication of the current installed base of fitness wearables and dedicated sports watches. The results showed that fitness wristbands and "other fitness trackers" combined are already represented in more US households than sports watches. 

Sports watches, such as dedicated running watches, have been around for many years, but such products are not for everyone and hence do not have mass market appeal. Gartner said it expects this trend to continue in the next few years as fitness wearables proliferate. 

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