Lack of apps mean smartwatches are yet to earn their time in the limelight

Device manufacturers needed to develop more smartwatch applications to persuade customers to invest.

Apple is expected to announce only minor updates to its Apple Watch portfolio at a public event next month. Issei Kato / Reuters
Powered by automated translation

They may be outselling their analogue Swiss counterparts, but smartwatches like the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S2 have some way to go before becoming truly mainstream, according to Eric Cador, Lenovo's senior vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Mr Cador admitted that device manufacturers needed to de­velop more smartwatch applications to persuade customers to invest.

“Having a general watch that is an extension of your phone is an interesting concept, but I don’t think it’s enough,” he said.

“We’re going to need to have some [new] breakthrough applications, because the new generation hasn’t worn a watch for the last 10 years.”

The Lenovo subsidiary Moto­rola launched the Moto 360 in September 2014, making it among the first devices to run Google’s Android Wear platform for smartwatches.

Alongside the need for compelling new applications is a need for a greater range of form factors to appeal to a wide variety of tastes.

“Anything you wear is a fashion item, and one device for everyone in the fashion world doesn’t exist,” Mr Cador said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last week.

“In the early days the market will likely be divided by vertical segments; if you’re a sports person, there’ll be a watch for you, if health is important for you, you could have a watch more health- focused. I see more market pot­ential for this kind of market than a general watch for everybody.”

The industry analyst Strategy Analytics this month estimated 8.1 million smartwatches were sold worldwide last quarter, compared with 7.9 million Swiss watches.

Global smartwatch sales are forecast to hit 50.4 million units in 2016, a 66 per cent increase on last year, with devices by Apple and Samsung set to dominate the market, according to the industry analysts Gartner.

However, smartwatches were conspicuous by their absence at last week’s MWC, with no new major smartwatch device launches. Apple is expected to announce only minor updates to its Apple Watch next month.

In the Emirates, the Samsung Gear S2 retails for around Dh1,000. The Apple Watch starts from Dh1,399, rising to as much as Dh64,000.

The high prices are a deterrent for UAE consumers, said Neelesh Bhatnagar, the chief executive of the electronics retailer E-Max.

“Smartwatches are catching on, but it appears as if the price point is still a bit high,” said Mr Bhatnagar.

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter