Mar 20 AT 2:51 PM Dustin Earley 10 Comments

What would it take for Android Wear to be considered a success?

Android Wear generic

In order to measure the success of something, we tend to measure it against something else. For example, when talking about the success of Android, it’s often pointed out just how much of the global smartphone market share the platform holds. When talking about the success of iOS, it’s not uncommon to read about web usage numbers. So how do you measure the success of a smartwatch? Do you compare it against smartphones sales? Tablet sales? Traditional watches? Is the smartwatch such an entirely different beast that it can’t be compared against anything else? When Android Wear debuts this year, the platform’s success will be debated for the next several months (years?) to come. It’s time to put smartwatches into perspective.

By the numbers

Accurate numbers for smartwatches, watches and other portable electronics can be hard to come by. But for the sake of this article, let’s assume these numbers are mostly right. According to Strategy Analytics, some 2 million smartwatches were sold in 2013. Of that 2 million, 1.2 million were powered by Android and another 0.7 million fell into the “other” category. If Pebble’s sales numbers of around 300,000 and Samsung’s Gear numbers of 800,000 are right, then let’s be honest here: In 2013, Pebble and Samsung are the only companies that really mattered in the smartwatch market.

Compared against the smartwatch market in general, Samsung and Pebble are doing well. But let’s put those numbers into perspective:

  • 1,800,000,000 – Mobile phones sold
  • 968, 000, 000 – Smartphones sold
  • 300, 000, 000 – Samsung smartphones sold
  • 150, 000, 000 – Apple smartphones sold

The number of watches and mobile phones sold in 2013 are surprisingly similar. But the differences in smartwatches and smartphones couldn’t be more different. For right now, though, I can’t think of a better comparison.

What does this mean for smartwatches and Android Wear in particular? It means the market is wide open. Considering how much you hear about Samsung’s Gear and Pebble, you’d think they have a huge leg up on the market. But if smartwatches follow the path of the smartphone, the market is very much still in its infancy. Remember the companies that controlled the smartphone market when that sector was in its infancy? They’re either fighting over the crumbs that companies like Samsung and Apple are leaving on the ground or they’re not even in business anymore.

Forget the numbers

Right now we just don’t know how the smartwatch market will shake out. Smartwatches may never follow the path of the smartphone. I think Android Wear will be a success if it just brings a little organization and standardization to the market. Something like “Moto 360 sales top 5 million” certainly makes for a nice headline. But as a lot of Android and Google enthusiasts know, some of Google’s least popular services and products have been their best. Thankfully Gmail, Android, Chrome, Chromecast, Google Now and the Nexus program have all seen at least some level of success, so Google can keep doing things like Android Wear and be okay if it doesn’t sell a ton of units.

If you’re a numbers person, I’d go with the figures above. If you’re not all about profits and global domination, then Android Wear just needs to be a great platform that works well. Me? I’m somewhere in-between. I’d like to say that all I care about is a solid platform that makes my life easier, but I’d be lying if I said I was going to pay attention to these numbers very closely for the next year.

What would it take for Android Wear to be considered a success? I guess that depends on your definition of success – somewhere between 1 million smartwatches sold and a killer wearable experience is a great bet, though.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • aranea

    If they can make a smartwatch that can’t be easily distinguished from a conventional watch that’ll be a success for me.

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  • Richard Yarrell

    I wouldn’t worry to much about Android Wear it’s truthfully meaningless to main stream android users just like it’s Nexus brand handsets.

    • Orion78

      And you’re useless to mankind. Go worry about your next bite to eat and get lost.

    • squiddy20

      1. In case you didn’t know, your “pimp slapping” Note 3 runs on Android. I guess that means your favorite device is “truthfully meaningless” too?
      2. You’re just pissed off that Google came out with a better, more usable *preview* of a device, while Samsung’s previous *2* products have less functionality and only work with select Samsung products. So here you are downplaying the hurt this will cause Samsung on their Gear series and saying Google sucks. What a moronic, ignorant, Samsung shill.

    • Sean

      So, you pretty much can’t identify a framework for a handset. Android Wear isn’t a device or even a set of devices. It is essentially a framework for developers to use to provide functionality to wearable devices. Nexus is a brand and doesn’t really define anything too concrete.

      If what you were trying to say that the set of terms used by developers/vendors/power users isn’t relevant to the normal user, then you may be correct, but it isn’t likely those customers are reading the message boards or even paying attention to the new announcement.

    • donger

      Go take the next big thing, turn it sideways and shove it up your @$$.

  • surethom

    It will be considered a success when the wearable device is used easily that the UI just flows. The Moto 360 is the ideal show device that will kick off the wearable device.

    Samsung could have been the current king, but its silly decision to limit the use with another samsung device made us turn away from the Gear,

  • Mars

    I would say price is a huge determining factor for me and I’m sure others as well. I wouldn’t pay over 300$ for something that’s just an extension of your phone and displays notifications. 300 is pushing it (not a deal breaker) but 200-250 is ideal.

  • jamal adam

    For Android Wear smartwatches, I feel that a balance of style (design), function (user experience), and price will make or break them. If Motorola, for example, can provide the user experience and design that is shown in the videos and also sell it at a great and reasonable price then I think it will be a success. Also in terms of defining this success the only comparison would have to be with the Pebble and Samsung Gear devices as those are the only ones that have done well at this point. In terms of opportunity, we can look at the billions of traditional watches sold and see that there is a lot of potential because many people buy watches for style and form but with addition of function it might just bring those people on board. There is also the option of different styles and designs that will cater to different people like the LG G Watch which is a square. Another thing is that this will be the only the first venture for these Android Wear devices and only time will tell but it has to start well in order for it to succeed.