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Indians will keep their date with wearables

May 08, 2015

Indians quickly adopted smartphones as a must-have device. Smartwatches might follow the same direction.

The announced rollout of the Apple Watch on April 24 provides the right peg to take a look at the state of the smartwatch and the larger wearables market in India. The country is not among the select nine geographies where Apple is releasing its watch initially. But make no mistake, the rollout is going to create more than a few ripples in one of the world's fastest growth markets for smartphones.

Competitors have already signalled their intention to fight it out to maintain their turf. Smartphone makers like LG, Samsung, and Motorola have launched compatible smartwatches priced much lower than the Apple Watch (priced between $350 and $17,000), while brands such as Spice and Kenxinda have brought out even cheaper models.

"The Indian smartwatch industry is still at a nascent stage and has immense potential to grow in the coming years. With the increasing acceptance of smartphones in India, individuals are now looking at wearables as the next big thing," Tata Elxsi Chief Designer (Product Design) Shyam Sunder B K told Deccan Herald.

Samsung, Sony lead market

A smartwatch has two parts - one is 'smart' and the other is 'watch'. "The first refers to the intelligence which enables the connection and extension between a human and his/her watch, which a traditional watch does not possess. The watch part is about time and about tradition which have been there for scores of years, albeit in a diminished form during the last 20 years as the mobile phone, particularly the smartphone, captures the market," Huawei President (Consumer Business) Allen Wang said.

"Huawei's wearable category has three product types: TalkBand, InfoBand and watch. Huawei just announced TalkBand B2 and N1 and the Huawei Watch at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) which has attracted global spotlight. Most probably, the TalkBand will debut in the Indian market in Q2 FY16, and later, we will unveil the smartwatch in early Q3," Wang said.

According to 6Wresearch, the Indian smart wearable market shipment value reached over $3 million during CY H1 2014. Estimates say that in the next 4-5 years, India could see a smartwatch market size of over Rs 20 crore. Samsung and Sony have captured around 85 per cent of the current market share.

Samsung's leadership stems from the demand for its Galaxy Gear series. In January 2015, Sony India announced its new SmartWear Experience range - SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk - in India. Both wearable devices connect with Lifelog, a tracking app.

Experts have found a correlation between the popularity for smartwatches and smartphones. Indians adopted smartphones as a must-have device at a rapid pace. Utility gave way to trend, which made space for status, with smartphones bloating in features, prices, and flaunt value. Smartwatches might follow the same direction.

"Wearable products will help people balance their smartphone-user behaviour and guide them to use it in a healthy way. Currently, it cannot be an alternative to smartphone completely, as it will take time for wearables to provide the same function with the same experience. As technology develops, wearables will revolutionise the smartphone," Wang said.

A smart future?

International Data Corporation (IDC) Senior Market Analyst Karan Thakkar said, "The very reason why smartphones excelled because they enabled consumers with more mobility. Smartwatches go one step further. Very soon the concept of wrapping a phone around your arm while working out is going to fade away. Devices which can be paired with smartphones can notify about important calls or messages, at least."

The country's IT and R&D talent pool has played a role in developing, assessing and improvising wearable solutions. "There are lots to explore in wearable technologies, not just in smartwatches. Tata Elxsi has been involved in designing cutting-edge wearable products in collaboration with a few Indian companies. We work in various areas including health, security, communication, and beauty. Also, we are working on designing and developing new value features that can be incorporated in wearables, than the usual accelerometers," Shyam Sunder said.

He added, "The main challenge for R&D...is to make the wearable devices look sleek, miniaturised, compact, and at the same time, fashionable and offer all the required functions, which is crucial, especially if companies are getting into the fashion accessories space."

Studies show that the Asia-Pacific market is expected to propel the global market, supplemented by China. Many smartwatch makers believe that India will become a hub for the product.

"As a country with the second largest population and a top smartphone market, India will also become the biggest smartphone country. We believe in the huge potential of the Indian smartwatch market and will start focusing on this market from the very beginning. So we will start the journey now, "Wang said.


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