Apple Watch will 'ignite' global smartwatch market this year: Strategy Analytics

Before the Apple Watch even gets out of the gate, it's time for another forecast about just how well it will do this year -- or not.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Apple hasn't even announced the price tag for its highly-anticipated smartwatch entry, the Apple Watch, and analyst reports are furiously trying to predict the immediate success.

The latest forecast, this time from Strategy Analytics, not only pegs the iPhone maker to dominate more than half of the nascent vertical in less than a year.

Strategy Analytics also expects more than 15 million units of the Apple Watch to ship in 2015 alone.

Clumping Samsung, Motorola, Pebble, and other Android Wear ecosystem players into a generic category ("Others"), Strategy Analytics expects 12.7 million smartwatches from other brands to ship this year.

All in all, analysts predicted global smartwatch shipments to grow a whopping 511 percent from 4.6 million units in 2014 to approximately 28.1 million units in 2015.

Given how young the smartwatch (let alone wearables) market is, sales and shipment forecasts have been all over the map even before Apple officially unveiled the Apple Watch last September.

For example, Stifel analyst Aaron Rakers suggested last November that the Apple Watch could expected deliver 19.6 million units in calendar 2015, and then another 27.8 million in 2016.

Ovum consumer technology analyst Ronan de Renesse told ZDNet in January that Apple could sell roughly 10 million units of the connected wrist band this year alone.

Following up an optimistic outlook on the "smartband" vertical last fall, Canalys remained mum in terms of specific shipment targets but warned to keep an eye on Apple nonetheless this past January.

Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston went so far as to proclaim Apple will become the "world's number one smartwatch vendor" by year's end, adding in Thursday's report that the Apple Watch will be the "catalyst to ignite the global smartwatch market."

Mawston backed up this assessment by highlighting "Apple's famous brand, loyal fan base, deep retail presence and extensive apps ecosystem."

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the device itself -- which is expected to be discussed in more detail during Apple's invite-only event this Monday in San Francisco -- could be flawed when released.

"For example, Apple's Watch hardware design is arguably less attractive than some rival models such as the Huawei Watch, battery life may not be as long as many traditional wristwatch owners are used to, and Apple's premium pricing may be challenging for mass-market consumers," Mawston explained. "Apple will need to upgrade tangibly its second-generation Watch to stay ahead of competitors later this year."

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