Apple’s official unveiling of the Apple Watch wearable device will propel the market into the mainstream, benefiting rivals such as Samsung and Sony as much as the company itself.
The Apple Watch is due to be shown off at an event on 9 March in California, where chief executive Tim Cook will reveal more information, such as the launch date and price, to an expectant market.
This is the first new product category for Apple since the iPad launch in 2010, and expectations are high for the device, and what it means for the wearables market as a whole.
The market has been growing steadily in the past two or so years, driven by devices including the Pebble Time, Sony SmartWatch, and Samsung Gear S, but it remains a niche technology.
The arrival of Apple Watch will change all that, according to Forrester analyst James McQuivey.
"Apple Watch will at last fully launch the wrist-based wearables category," he said. "And with it, Apple will propel the rest of the wearables market forward."
McQuivey expects 10 million Apple Watch units to be sold by the end of the year. This would be a strong figure, but Forrester’s projection is just half that of CCS Insight, which said in February that 20 million units will be sold.
Ben Wood, CCS Insight's chief of research, also said that Apple Watch will be a catalyst for the wearables technology market, especially at Christmas.
"If the Apple Watch performs as well as expected, its halo effect will result in a sales bonanza in the second half of 2015, with record-breaking shipments in the important fourth quarter," he said.
Sitting in the middle of these expectations is Strategy Analytics, which predicts that Apple will sell 15 million units, making it the world's number one wearables vendor.
Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, also agreed that Apple Watch will “ignite the global smartwatch market”, but raised some concerns about the device that could affect sales.
“Apple’s watch hardware design is arguably less attractive than some rival models such as the Huawei Watch, battery life may not be as long as many traditional wristwatch owners are used to, and Apple’s premium pricing may be challenging for mass-market consumers,” he said.
Mawston believes that it might even be necessary for Apple to “tangibly” update the second-generation model before the end of the year to stay ahead of its rivals and appeal to buyers in the Christmas period.
One area in which Apple Watch is expected to resonate is the use of apps. Forrester analyst Julie Ask said that many people find it frustrating having to fish a smartphone from their pocket to use apps for simple information.
She believes that the "glanceable" nature of a wearable device is more suitable for this, and that companies with apps will need to think about how to translate this to the Watch interface.
"The smartwatch allows firms to think about a strategy for their customers' micro moments - the instances when quick information is needed and can be obtained with just a glance at the device or wearable on hand," she said.
Apple is clearly aware of the importance of getting the use of apps on the Apple Watch right. Reports suggest that the firm has allowed companies such as BMW and Facebook to tinker with the device on Apple's campus to fine-tune their apps. Time will tell whether they've done enough to please expectant buyers.
V3 will cover all the details from the Apple Watch unveiling next week, so check back to find out all the key information as it happens.
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