Smartwatches have been around for the last decade, but they have failed to gain any real attention until recently. The Kickstarter-backed Pebble generated massive hype, as have rumored devices from Apple, Google, Samsung, LG and Microsoft. Market research firm ABI Research is now predicting that 2013 could be a breakout year for smartwatches with more than 1.2 million devices expected to ship.
“The strong potential emergence of smartwatches can be attributed to several reasons,” said senior analyst Joshua Flood. “Contributing factors include the high penetration of smartphones in many world markets, the wide availability and low-cost of MEMS sensors, energy-efficient connectivity technologies such as Bluetooth 4.0, and a flourishing app ecosystem.”
The firm breaks the market down into four categories of watches: notification types, voice operational smartwatches, hybrid smartwatches and completely independent smartwatches. The notification type includes the functionality of the Pebble, which can alert users when they are receiving an incoming call, text message or other notifications. Voice operational smartwatches allow users to speak commands to the device, while independent smartwatches, like the ones rumored to be in development from Apple and Google, are powered by their own operating system rather than relying on a smartphone.
The analyst notes, however, that “smartwatches that replicate the functionality of a mobile handset or smartphone are not yet commercially feasible, though the technologies are certainly being prepared.”