After a rocky start, the wearable market is finally hitting its stride. The 900-pound gorilla of the Apple Watch is set to launch next month, and the incredible success of the Pebble Time’s crowdsourcing campaign proves there is a demand for wearables.
But what happened between the initial launch of the wearable form factor and today? App stores have matured. Initially the bulk of the apps on the app stores for many wearables were limited to basic sports and health functionalities. This may have appealed to a small, loyal market but the mainstream consumer wants something more. The powers that be have listened, and app stores expanded.
With the broadening of app stores, wearables suddenly came a hot commodity and the market took off.
“Wearable devices have exploded into the consumer consciousness in the last two years and, when use cases become established, they will be the ‘next big thing’ in consumer electronics,” Juniper Research noted in a recent white paper. “Exactly what that ‘thing’ is varies considerably depending on the market segment and purpose of the devices.”
Gartner Research is equally as bullish, predicting that the market will grow to 26 million units in 2016. This is up from a mere 100,000 in 2014.
Considering the chart below from Business Intelligence, there’s a direct correlation between correlation between the strength of the app store and the demand for the specific wearable.
The Pebble’s app store leads the way with approximately 1000 apps. Contrast that to the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, with a paltry 70 apps, and its easy to see the connection.
The next generation of wearables will likely have an even stronger emphasis on apps, as when the market gets more mature it’s bound to get more competitive. Consumers will want their wearables to become more and more independent from their smartphones, and app designers will have to take note and build apps accordingly.
Vendors that fail to nurture the development of robust app stores will be faced with their devices failing to gain altitude. Consumers will simply not be interested in them and will instead pick up something with more app offerings.