Apple Watch to Drive Smart Watch Adoption

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The long-awaited Apple Watch is finally here. Apple last week officially unveiled its first smart watch, immediately propelling what was a tech-geek fashion statement into the mainstream.

The Apple Watch shares many software features with established smart watch brands such as the Sony SmartWatch and Samsung's Galaxy Gear. Where Apple's product shines, as always, is in its hardware design. The Apple Watch features a sleek, classic watch look and includes a "Digital Crown" (jog dial) that can be used to zoom and scroll content on the watch face.

Available early next year, the Apple Watch is set to help the smart watch category more than double in 2015. Research firm Canalys is predicting that wearable band shipments will hit 43.2 million units next year, an increase of 129% over 2014 shipments. The firm's report suggests that smart watches will make up around 28.2 million of next year's wearable band shipments.

"By creating a new user interface tailored to its tiny display, Apple has a produced a smart watch that mass-market consumers will actually want to wear," said, Daniel Matte, an analyst at Canalys. "The sleek software, variety of designs and reasonable entry price make for a compelling new product. Apple must still prove, however, that the final product will deliver adequate battery life for consumers."

In the short term, Canalys sees the Apple Watch dominating the smart watch category. The coming transition from specialized bands such as the Jawbone to more smartphone-like wrist-wear will likely be hastened by Apple's new product. As seen in the tablet market, however, Apple's competitors are prepared to quickly offer lower-priced alternatives, bringing smart watches to a wider market.

"The basic band vendors, such as Fitbit and Jawbone, will enjoy the advantages of their lower pricing for the immediate future,’ said Chris Jones, principal analyst and VP for Canalys. "Eventually, however, stronger smart band competitors to the Apple Watch will likely emerge and push smart band pricing down, threatening the basic bands. This market will undergo disruption similar to that suffered by feature phones when smart phone prices fell."