August 28, 2013, 9:16 AM — Sales of so-called "smart watches" will surge from 1 million to 36 million in five years, according to a speculative new report from Juniper Research. But whether that defines "success" remains an open question.
Yet despite the frenzy of expectation around the rumored Samsung Gear and Apple "iWatch," even Juniper acknowledges smart watches "will only appeal to a niche demographic when compared to tablet and smartphone for example and hence the market potential will be comparatively limited." There are two reasons for that limitation.
One is that the utility and even usability of smart watches hinges on their wireless connections with companion smartphones or tablets. Another is that most of the apps touted for the smart watches appeal to a relatively small subset of consumers, such as heart rate monitors and calorie counters for fitness enthusiasts.
The full market study is available only for purchase, but Juniper posted a "white paper" that summarizes some of conclusions.
Juniper defines a smart watch as "a smart wearable appcessory that can be worn on a user's wrist, offering a range of smart functionalities in conjunction with an external platform, such as the smartphone or tablet." Those functions include displaying call, text and email alerts, accessing stock and weather information or "any fitness, sports or commerce applications such as heart rate monitoring, payments or ticketing."
One category of smart watch is what Juniper calls the "dashboard/console watch," which is simply a "dumb terminal" acting as a display for information and data from another companion device. One example is the CooKoo watch, with the CooKoo Connected App for iOS. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE wireless technology to connect with Bluetooth SMART READY devices including iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad mini, and 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation iPads.