SAN FRANCISCO—More than 1.2 million so-called smart watches are expected to ship in 2013 thanks to a number of new models that have emerged in recent months, according to market research firm ABI Research.
Smart watches have been around for a decade, but have largely failed to take off due to lack of visual appeal, bulkiness, weak functionality and battery life, according to ABI. But over the past nine months, a number of new smart watches have emerged that could change consumers' perceptions, ABI said.
Joshua Flood, a senior analyst at ABI, said the strong potential emergence of smart watches can be attributed to several factors.
"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," Flood said.
Apple Inc. is widely rumored to be preparing an "iWatch" wearable computing device that offers smartphone-like functionality. On Monday (April 15), it was widely reported that Microsoft Inc. is also prepping a smart watch of its own.
According to ABI, smart watches can be split into four categories: notification types, voice operational smart watches, hybrid smart watches and completely independent smart watches. Notification type devices are the MetaWatch and Cookoo smart watches, for example, offering alerts for incoming calls, messages and other notifications, ABI said. Voice operational smart watches enable users to conduct calls and speak some commands via the device such as Martian’s smart watch, the firm said.
Standalone smart watches with their own OS are moving beyond a smartphone accessory, ABI said. With the potential to be purchased as a standalone product without the need for a smartphone, they offer high functionality and can connect to other consumer devices like audio speakers, the firm said.
An example of a standalone smart watch is offered by the Italian firm I'm Watch, ABI said. The rumored iWatch, the rumored Microsoft watch and Samsung’s Galaxy Altius also fit into this category, ABI said.
"Smart watches that replicate the functionality of a mobile handset or smartphone are not yet commercially feasible, though the technologies are certainly being prepared," adds Flood. Related stories: