Wearable device makers shipped 4.6 million wrist-worn devices in 2014, mainly smartwatches, fitness bands and health trackers, according to market research firm Canalys. Of those, 720,000 units were based on Google's Android Wear software platform.
Although the tech industry has grown accustomed to blockbuster, multimillion sales figures -- particularly when a new Apple iPhone hits the scene – Canalys' figures indicate that it's too early to tell if Android Wear is a hit or a flop.
While the platform was first announced in March 2014, the industry would wait months before compatible units hit store shelves. The first batch of Android Wear devices, which include Samsung Gear Live and the LG G smartwatch, arrived last July.
But it's their rival Motorola that took home the Android Wear crown for 2014. "Though the Moto 360 remained supply constrained through Q4, Motorola was the clear leader among Android Wear vendors," said Canalys in a statement.
Chris Jones, vice president and principal analyst at Canalys, observed that Samsung "launched six devices in just 14 months, on different platforms and still leads the smart band market." Despite this, he said the Korean electronics giant "struggled to keep consumers engaged and must work hard to attract developers while it focuses on Tizen for its wearables."
Fitbit, Pebble and Xiaomi were also cited as market leaders, the latter of which racked up shipments of over a million units by targeting the entry-level segment of its home market. "Though the Mi Band is a lower-margin product than competing devices, Xiaomi entered the wearables market with a unique strategy, and its shipment volumes show how quickly a company can become a major force in a segment based solely on the size of the Chinese market," said Canalys research analyst Jason Low, in prepared remarks.
In 2015, Canalys expects another new contender to appear, this time from Cupertino, Calif.
"All eyes are now on Apple," said the firm, as the market awaits the expected April release of the Apple Watch. Canalys predicts that Apple's smartwatch will "dramatically grow" the wearables market.
Claiming that the company "made the right decisions with its WatchKit software development kit" by prioritizing battery life, analyst Daniel Matte stated that Apple's upcoming smartwatch "will offer leading energy efficiency," enabling the device to spend more time on users' wrists and less time charging.
Apple Watch may also prompt rival wearable platforms to step up their game. "Android Wear will need to improve significantly in the future, and we believe it will do so," concluded Matte.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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