Rumors about Apple’s entry into the wearable technology market with a smartwatch have been circulating for years, but a couple of months ago CEO Tim Cook finally revealed the forthcoming Apple Watch. It’s likely to hit the market in spring 2015 and prices will start at $349. Can it conquer a smartwatch market currently dominated by Samsung?
By the numbers
The smartwatch industry was worth around $700 million in 2013 and Samsung held a 34% share. According to Pascal Koenig of the Smartwatch Group the industry will be worth $2.5 billion this year, which makes it 5% the size of the wider watch industry. He expects it to be worth $60 billion by 2020 after surpassing the conventional watch industry in 2018.
Part of the reason for such bold expectations about growth is the entry of Apple into the market. A survey by Ask Your Target Market found that 64% of respondents had heard of the Apple Watch and 28% are likely to buy one when it’s released.
“We continue to be conservative in our first year sales expectations with our 10 million first year units estimate,” Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, told CNET.
Opportunity for app developers
That 10 million unit estimate may be conservative by Apple standards, but consider that current market leader Samsung only sold 500,000 smartwatches in Q1 of this year. The Apple Watch is obviously a huge opportunity for app developers and getting in on the new platform early could reap dividends as the first wave of consumers buying Apple Watches is liable to be extremely affluent.
We had a brief look at how to start developing apps for wearables before. So far only big names like Facebook have been allowed access to the SDK, but that’s about to change as the WatchKit SDK that developers will require to start work on Apple Watch apps will be made available this month.
The Apple Watch is capable of collecting data on the wearer through a built-in accelerometer and heart rate sensor, which has obvious applications in the health and fitness space. It can also display notifications and accept voice commands. Then there’s the inclusion of NFC, which enables users to pay for goods and services with the new Apple Pay system.
Creating and testing Apple Watch apps
Since the Apple Watch requires an iPhone or iPad to pair with, creating extensions of existing apps for those devices that can send notifications to the smartwatch is an obvious first step. But there is a great deal of opportunity here to get creative and come up with the kind of killer app that will really sell the device to consumers.
Working with a display that is 38mm to 42mm high necessitates a lot of usability testing to get the controls and interface right. The smartwatch industry is in its infancy and smooth ease of use is something it really needs to take off.
Developers are also going to have to work with serious limitations in terms of power. Any wearable app testing will have to cater for different scenarios in terms of signal strength and power, not just for the Apple Watch, but for the device it’s connected to as well. It could be costly and difficult for the first wave of developers and there’s no telling how fast the market will grow.
Putting the practical difficulties aside, a new platform is always exciting and a device like the Apple Watch demands simple and elegant app design. Who is up for the challenge?