The latest Pebble Time Kickstarter raised $9 million in two days, showing that consumers have a big appetite for smartwatches, and that could potentially mean big business for the forthcoming Apple Watch. Compared with the rest of the market, however, the Apple Watch’s $349 starting price is nearly double the average selling smartwatch.
According to independent research firm Smartwatch Group, about 6.8 million smartwatches were sold in 2014 at an average price of $189. That’s down 16 percent from $225 in 2013. Despite the price drop, market volume grew 82 percent, to $1.29 billion, last year, up from $711 million in 2013.
Of the watches sold, Samsung’s Gear line, took the top spot with 1.2 million shipped, largely due to its large selection of smartwatch designs and operating systems. Coming in second was Pebble, which moved 700,000 units last year, but despite units shipped, the Pebble’s cheaper price kept its market share at 7 percent. Lenovo, on the other hand, shipped 500,000 units of the Moto 360 but had a 10 percent market share with $125 million market volume.
While the smartwatch market saw growth in 2014, the Apple Watch may have put a damper in sales.
“This growth rate is less than what most industry experts expected,” Pascal Koenig, managing director of the Smartwatch Group, said in a release. “The early announcement of the Apple Watch in September hurt sales of competitive products, and there was no available product offering from Apple. While offerings in the wellness and sports market from companies like Garmin, Fitbit, Withings and Polar are based on solid use cases, the consumer market has not yet picked up.”
And even though Google’s Android Wear gave some manufacturers a head start in the smartwatch market, estimates place units shipped with the mobile OS at only 720,000 units in 2014, according to Canalys.
Overall, the Smartwatch Group’s study found that 89 companies from 18 countries sold smartwatches last year. That number of companies could to grow to 140 this year as more firms look to get a piece of the smartwatch action. Among the smartwatches expected for 2015 are the Apple Watch and several others from traditional watchmakers such as LVMH’s Tag Heuer and Swatch.
Despite the price discrepancy between the average selling price for existing smartwatches and the starting price of the Apple Watch, it is actually expected to bring the average price up to $290, while contributing toward an overall market growth of $8.7 billion in 2015.
Though the Apple Watch isn’t available on the market yet, analysts predict big first-year sales for the watch, anywhere between 10 million and 30 million units. Apple has also reportedly ordered more than 5 million units for the watch’s launch, according to the Wall Street Journal. While the Apple Watch will start at $349, rumors have pointed to the 18-karat gold model costing over $5,000.