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Apple Watch is ascendant, but for how long?

Estimates suggest smartwatches are outselling Swiss watches, but the novelty could wear off.

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Apple Watch Ascendant:

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To no one’s surprise, Apple is whooping everyone else in the smartwatch business, according to a new report from Strategy Analytics.

The company sold an estimated 5.1 million Apple Watches in the fourth quarter of 2015, accounting for 63 per cent of the market. The next closest competitor was Samsung, which sold 1.3 million devices for 16-per-cent share. Apple, of course, has yet to disclose Watch sales itself, resulting in an analyst guessing game.

Total smartwatch sales worldwide were 8.1 million, which slightly edged out sales of classic, non-smart Swiss watches, at 7.9 million, according to the research firm.

There are a few ways to interpret the numbers, assuming they’re accurate.

The obvious headline is that smartwatches have already achieved primacy over their “dumb” counterparts. As Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston tells MacRumours, “The Swiss watch industry has been sticking its head in the sand and hoping smartwatches will go away.”

There’s an argument to be made for classic watches getting “smart” in order to compete against their new digital rivals, but it’s also probably too early to proclaim them dead, as Mawston seems to be suggesting.

Smartwatches are still a novelty, with many of the units that have sold so far snapped up by gadget fans and early adopters. It’s entirely possible the devices will follow the trajectory of ebooks, where they achieve a healthy slice of the market and then plateau, falling short of mainstream adoption.

What’s more interesting is what the numbers mean for Apple, again, assuming they’re correct. According to its official numbers, the company sold 5.7 Mac computers in the fourth quarter, which is only slightly ahead of the estimated watch figures. Indeed, the Apple Watch has been slightly behind Mac sales throughout 2015 by Strategy Analytics’ estimates.

This means that the Apple Watch is a hair’s breadth away from hopping over Mac computers to become the company’s third-biggest product line, after the iPhone and iPad.

Tablet sales saw a bounce back in Apple’s most recent quarter thanks to the new iPad Pro, to 16 million units sold, but prior to that they were trending downward – only 9 million in the previous quarter.

A second version of the Apple Watch, which some observers expect as soon as next month, could catapult the device past Macs and into striking distance of second place.

Of course, to put things in perspective – the iPhone is still firmly driving Apple, with 74 million units sold in its most recent quarter. The global smartphone market is worth upwards of $250 billion (U.S.), whereas the Swiss watch market is a comparatively piddly $1.5 billion.

By these estimates, the Apple Watch looks to be doing well for the company. But it’s still all about the iPhone, through and through.

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2 Comments on Apple Watch is ascendant, but for how long?

  1. These numbers feel all wrong to me. Does the so-called dumb watch sales figure include all non-smart watches or just those made by Swiss makers? You’ve got to think that Amazon’s sales of Timex watches for one year alone would eclipse sales of Apple watches handily — just based on price point alone. Anecdotally, I have seen precious few Apple watches adorning people’s wrists when I get a chance to see what they’re wearing.

    • It looks like they’re just for Swiss watches and I agree, that’s not the full watch market. The analyst likely considers Swiss watches as Apple’s main target audience. My anecdotal experience matches your’s. There must be a lot of people wearing these things down in Silicon Valley.

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