We have covered WearOS, formerly Android Wear, a couple of times here on Android Kenya. However, do you notice how the wearables-focused fork of Google’s mobile operating system never gets a mention at local launches? Heck, ever since Huawei brought its gorgeous Watch here 2 years ago, I doubt there’s been any half-hearted attempt to bring such products into the local market at least on an official basis.
Want an Android-powered smartwatch worth its name (forget the hundreds of knock-off Chinese brands that you can pick on Nairobi’s Luthuli and Tom Mboya streets, those ones don’t count)? Find ways of getting it by yourself. That mostly involves a less convenient import process and hefty taxes at the port of entry. The Kenya we live in.
While that may be so mainly because we are (or rather we are classed as) an emerging market when it comes to mobile products and our immediate struggle is finding the best sub-Kshs 20,000 smartphone and not parting with similar or more amounts to buy a forgettable accessory that, bar its use cases among fitness buffs (who are better served elsewhere, anyway) is mostly a solution looking for a problem, it’s a little surprising to find evidence that corroborates a similar scenario happening almost everywhere else.
As per the latest shipment numbers from America-based research firm Strategy Analytics, very few people are buying Android-powered smartwatches, a stark contrast to the fortunes of Apple and Samsung both of whom also happen to have dominated the top three smartphone vendors list this year.
According to the data from Strategy Analytics, Apple shipped 25% more smartwatches in Q3 2018 than it did over a similar period last year (3.6 million units to 4.5 million units) to capture almost half of the entire world’s smartwatch market share. While that is impressive, it is a big slip from the whopping 60% smartwatch market share that Apple commanded just a year ago. Things have been bleak for Android-powered smartwatches for a while, it appears. Apple will be hoping for a change of fortune in Q4 as its newly-launched Series 4 smartwatch goes on sale just in time for the crazy holiday season.
Samsung, Android’s top device maker but which has opted to go with its own Tizen OS on almost its entire product portfolio bar its smartphones, increased its shipments year over year by just 1 percentage point to spoil the party for Garmin who must be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Fitbit in dominating a product segment that has become their specialty while the traditional mobile giants stutter and fail. There’s a reason the Fitbit Versa, and not the plethora of WearOS watches with dated specifications that have hit the market recently, remains attractive to me.
While the global smartwatch market has grown impressively by 67% over just a year, it is a pity that WearOS vendors are nowhere to be seen in lists like the one above. Does the future bode well for Android in the smartwatch space?