Smartwatch availability is somewhat scarce at present. Few companies are investing any real money into their development, with all eyes on heavyweights Apple and Samsung, eagerly waiting for their entrance into the market.

Findings from hi-tech analysts, Juniper Research, revealed that app-enabled smartwatch shipments will reach just over one million this year. The Pebble and Sony’s Smartwatch 2, will contribute, but they are not standalone devices and still require a smartphone to do the grunt work.

By 2018, Juniper expects smartwatch shipments to reach 36 million per annum. To add a little perspective to this stat, sales of iOS devices reached this same number between 2009-2010, three years after Apple launched the original iPhone.

Fitness Focus

Juniper discovered that smartwatch shipments will be driven by a new multi-function segment, which will boast features like tracking fitness and sports activities, payments or ticketing compared to the more limited dashboard and console segment.

Author of the Next Generation Smart Watches: Market Prospects 2013-2018 report, Nitin Bhas, said the entrance of Apple and Samsung will help validate the category and will inspire other competitors.

“Apple and Samsung will indeed act as a catalyst to the market,” Bhas said. “In addition, being a key influencer, these player’s entry into the smartwatch segment will benefit existing smartwatch players – providing an increase in awareness and adoption of other wearable devices.”

Niche Appeal?

In his report, Bhas notes that the smartwatch categories, dashboard/console and multi-function, may only appeal to a niche demographic when compared to tablets and smartphones, which points to a limited market potential.

It is predicted there will be a significant opportunities for app developers in the health, fitness, sports and communications verticals as app-enabled mobile wireless accessory shipments are set to approach 170 million by 2018.

Smartwatches will be offered as a premium device, differentiating them from current contenders like the Pebble, according to the report, which also expects to see a multiple price band category similar to the current smartphone market.