The first smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear software began shipping in 2014. But in the grand scheme of things, not all that many of them actually shipped.
A report from research firm Canalys finds that about 4.6 million smart wearable wristbands shipped last year, and only about 720 thousand of them ran Android Wear.
Of those that did, the Moto 360 was at the top of the food chain, with the LG G Watch R (with a round watch face) outperforming the original, square G Watch.
Rival Pebble is doing about as well as any smartwatch maker, having shipped a total of about a million units since the company’s products started shipping — but Pebble had a head start, having launched its first products in 2013.
Samsung, meanwhile, offers a wide range of of smartwatches including models with Android Wear. But most of the company’s smartwatches run an operating system based on Tizen Linux.
Other device makers are taking a different approach by offering wearable fitness trackers with basic smartwatch features such as the ability to display notifications for incoming calls on your smartphone. Canalys reports that Fitbit remains the leader in that space, but that Chinese company Xiaomi shipped more than a million units of its Mi Band, a low-cost wearable that’s predominantly sold in China.
Smart wearables will probably never have the same kind of market saturation as smartphones as long as they’re companion devices to phones. They’ll only appeal to people looking for accessories to their primary mobile device. But if the numbers from Canalys are accurate, it looks like either the product category isn’t nearly as popular as device makers had been hoping… or that we’re still in the early days of the wearable space and that we’re still waiting for the iPod or iPhone of the wearable space: something that will take a niche product category and truly popularize it.
Whether it will be the upcoming Apple Watch that does that remains to be seen: Apple’s first wearable is expected to be one of the most expensive options in this space. But it has a few interesting features including support for Apple Pay, which will let users tap their phones a the checkout aisle in many retail locations instead of removing cash from their wallet (or tapping smartphone).