Nearly 5 million smartwatches shipped in 2014

SAN FRANCISCO – More than 4.6 million digital wearables shipped worldwide last year, according to a report on the young market published Wednesday by analytics firm Canalys.

More than 720,000 devices powered by Google’s Android Wear wearable operating system were shipped in 2014, with the Motorola Moto 360 smartwatch the clear favorite.

The team at Canalys measured shipments of “smart wearable bands,” multi-purpose devices designed to be worn on the body, act as accessories to other devices and can run third-party applications.

After a few middling releases in 2013, last year saw a broader market with offerings from companies ranging from tech behemoths like Samsung, which essentially released an entire line of smartwatches, and LG to crowdfunded upstarts like Pebble, which has shipped 1 million units since its 2013 launch.

Even though the Moto 360 led the Android Wear devices, Samsung is still spearheading the entire market. 

“Samsung has launched six devices in just 14 months, on different platforms and still leads the smart band market,” said Canalys vice president and principal analyst Chris Jones, in a statement. “But it has struggled to keep consumers engaged and must work hard to attract developers while it focuses on Tizen for its wearables.” Tizen is an operating system for digital devices.

Samsung’s current hold on the market is expected to evaporate, however, when Apple Watch hits store shelves sometime in the coming months. Canalys believes Apple’s offering will be the product to kick wearables into the mainstream, much like the company did for tablets when the iPad was released in 2010.

“Apple made the right decisions with its WatchKit software development kit to maximize battery life for the platform, and the Apple Watch will offer leading energy efficiency,” claimed Canalys analyst Daniel Matte in a release. “Android Wear will need to improve significantly in the future, and we believe it will do so.”

While the market bubbled along nicely last year, 2015 will likely be the year smartwatches boil over into the public consciousness.

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