2014 turning point for wearable devices

2014 turning point for wearable devices

Summary: Over 1 million smart wearable bands will be shipped globally by end-2013, with more smart wearable devices expected to hit the market next year as focus shifts to better design and power-efficient displays.


Over 1 million smart wearable bands will be shipped worldwide by the end of 2013, with more smart wearable devices expected to hit the market next year.

Samsung Galaxy Gear
Samsung Galaxy Gear

Research firm Canalys said more than 200,000 smart wearable bands were shipped in the first half of this year, and this number would climb by over 500 percent in the second half with the launch of Samsung's Galaxy Gear

The company's marketing efforts helped push Galaxy Gear shipments to over 800,000 units within the first two months of its availability, establishing Samsung as the new market leader, said Chris Jones, Canalys' vice president and principal analyst. 

He added that the Pebble smartwatch also was seeing strong growth with its integration with iOS 7 and updated SDK with additional APIs (application programming interfaces), providing Pebble partners opportunities to increase the device's appeal "while maintaining its excellent battery life".

Canalys analyst Daniel Matte noted: "The market for smart wearables is extremely dynamic. This space is going to look very different in 12 months' time. A successful wearable device depends on the connectivity of a smartphone, which increasingly serves as the new digital hub for mobile users.

"Wearables entail a unique set of constraints for vendors and platform owners more experienced with the smartphone and tablet markets," he said. 

But while there has been much interest in this sector, available products have been limited. The good news is 2014 will be the turning point for smart wearable devices, Canalys predicted, offering growth opportunities to vendors, component suppliers, and developers. The research firm added that the market will see improved technologies next years, with significant developments in areas including systems-on-a-chip (SoC), health and fitness sensors, low-power displays, mobile operating systems (OSes), and materials and design. 

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

It added that there were technological requirements and market gaps that still needed to be addressed. Current smartphone SoCs, for instance, are not designed for wearables and unable to provide the battery life consumers demand. "These components will need to be designed specifically for wearables, working alongside sensor hubs that help reduce power draw," Canalys explained. "The integration of new types of sensors not included in smartphones, such as those for heart-rate monitoring, will be another important trend."

More power-efficient displays are needed, hardware and software have to be further optimized, and mobile OSes should be streamlined for wearable devices. In addition, market players would start looking at more sophisticated materials and putting stronger emphasis on design.

Canalys believes many of these new technologies will debut in 2014, starting at the Consumer Electronics Show next month in Las Vegas. 

Various technology vendors also recognize the growth potential in wearable technologies and are making plans to move into this segment. ZTE, for instance, is planning to launch its own smartwatch in China in second-quarter 2014, before expanding availability to the U.S. and Europe. The Chinese networking equipment and smartphone maker sees smart wearable devices as the "big thing in the future", as mobile Internet access is increasingly essential for more people. 

Semiconductor vendor Broadcom also is positioning itself as an adjacent partner with smartphone makers, and eventually be the gateway for wearable devices to communicate. It introduced a new Wi-Fi framework for embedded devices.

Chinese search giant Baidu in October unveiled a site that features wearable devices running its OS, including a health monitoring wristband and smartwatch. 

Topics: Emerging Tech, Mobile OS, Smartphones


Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

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  • Why just watches?

    You could have thinking caps, smarty pants and clever clogs.
  • Still not classy

    I will get one only if it doesn't look plasticy and geeky. Will be waiting a long time I suspect.
    D.J. 43
  • It might take until 2015 until someone gets it right

    The current 'smartwatches' aren't very interesting.

    I think it will take until 2015 before the vendors get it right. When they get it right, there will be an explosion of usage.
  • Check out Agent Smartwatch

    Was actually designed by a watch maker.
    Sean Foley
  • Not if they are like that Samsung $300 POS...

    There are a few great products out there Qualcomm's for example but they all have HUGE achillies heels. A day charge or awful apps/performance.

    If Apple or (insert Android) makes a device that can overcome all of these then we may have another industry leader otherwise, it's going to be half baked crap that costs as much as a full Nexus 5 (Samsung's smart watch costs $50 less)
  • absurd!!

    It's difficult to see a niche that makes sense for a smart watch............ Only a few people have any real use for the few functions they are well adapted to such as a heart rate monitor......... As a computing device it is far too small for data input / output. It's not even well adapted to audio IO without an auxiliary device like a bluetooth headset. Most folks I know don't even wear a watch anymore.... they've all got cell phones. The real question here is what does a "smart watch" offer that we don't already have in our cell phones? Google Glass as silly as it appears, at least has some unique and useful functionality and offers a solution to one half of the IO equation with a clear, easy to read / view display. Talking to a computing device will never be widely popular as a means of data input, nor does it offer a reasonable way to interact with the widely accepted graphical interface we have come to expect since the end of the bad old days of DOS. What is lacking entirely is the "brave new interface" that will allow us to interact smoothly and easily with micro devices without a bulky keyboard & monitor. Give us this solution, and the wearable will explode just like the smart phones and tablets exploded when an interface that made sense and was easy to use came along......... Thanks again to Apple Computer which has blazed a trail everybody else has followed since the beginnings of the MacOS.............. Will Apple lead the way here again? Have they learned their lesson? No more Newtons........ let somebody else make the mistakes. I suspect so. The mistake of premature product release is still too fresh from their mapping fiasco. Innovation there has not stopped in this area....... experimental devices, and suitable patents are an ongoing effort obviously, but they are sitting back watching others make pioneering mistakes. The killer technology to make it work isn't here yet.........
  • I'm going to get one

    When they get to $50