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Samsung Gear splurge skews smartwatch market Google’s way

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Strategy Analytics, a market watcher, has provided an object lesson in how statistics can give a potentially skewed picture of the evolution of a new product category.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Around a million Samsung Galaxy Gear were pumped into the channel after its launch

SA yesterday claimed that Google’s OS, Android, commanded 61.1 per cent of the smartwatch market in 2013. It bases this figure almost entirely on the million or more Galaxy Gear smartwatches Samsung pumped into the channel following the device’s launch in September 2013.

As any fule kno, shipments and sales are not the same thing, especially when they include items being given away for free, but none of the three SA analysts quoted in the press release choose to draw this distinction between items handed over to consumers and products consumers make a conscious choice to buy.

SA, of course, doesn’t track over-the-counter sales so has no real data to show how many Gears - or other smartwatches, for that matter - are wrapped around punters’ wrists. However, it does think that fewer than 19,000 of the 1.9 million smartwatches that shipped during 2013 - one per cent, in other words - were bundled with phones.

A table of data included in the release contains just three entries for smartwatch operating system: Android, Firefox and Others. Bizarrely, SA has chosen not to include Pebble - without question the best known name in the smartwatch arena - as a player in its own right.

Pebble

A Pebble in its competitors' shoes.

You might think this is because Pebble has a tiny, won’t-trouble-the-scorer market share. Not so. Pebble accounts for at least a third of vendors in the "Others" category, which together have a combined market share of 38.4 per cent.

Firefox’s share of the smartwatch market, however, is, according to SA, a mere 0.5 per cent. Rounding annual shipments of Firefox-based smartwatches to one decimal place, as SA does in its table, gives the Mozilla OS shipments of “0.0” million. Firefox-based smartwatches have been announced in China, but have any actually shipped? We think not.

Yet SA judges that Firefox warrants an entry of its own in the table, but that Pebble does not.

Pebble says it had sent out more than 190,000 smartwatches by 6 November 2013. Even making the (ridiculous) assumption that Pebble sold or shipped no further smartwatches in 2013, that still gives it 10 per cent of the market, far more than any player other than Google/Samsung.

We suspect Pebble’s share is much higher than this because so few other brands - excluding Samsung, of course - have shipped. We have yet to see compelling sales or shipment numbers from Meta, Martian, Cuckoo, I’m Watch or Sony.

Yet SA doesn’t see Pebble as a threat to Android’s “dominance” which in any case arises from what is effectively the involvement of a single firm, Samsung.

“Android’s main risk to its smartwatch dominance in the future will come from Apple iOS, Microsoft and perhaps Tizen or COS,” says the SA release. “These four brands have the potential scale or marketing power to offer a credible alternative to Google’s popular platform.”

That’s true, but Google’s “dominance” could equally be toppled by Samsung simply choosing to get out of the smartwatch market, or to switch to another OS. That Android is dominant is because Samsung happened to chose it, not punters did.

“We have opted at this stage to publish the main smartphone-related platforms in this press release for smartwatches, as we think that is where most of the future action will be,” SA's executive director of Wireless Device Strategies Neil Mawston told The Register. ®

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