Verizon, LG intro smartwatches in uncertain market

wearable smartwatch
Smartwatch sales have struggled as fitness bands have come to dominate the wearables market.

Vendors continue to bring new smartwatches to market, but how much demand exists for the wearables is still uncertain.

LG introduced two new smartwatches this week running Android Wear 2.0, which Google recently released. The LTE-enabled LG Watch Sport is targeted at fitness buffs and features a gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, GPS sensors and NFC, enabling it to conduct Android Pay transactions. The LG Watch Style is thinner and boasts fewer features—lacking LTE and NFC, among other things—and is aimed at more fashion-conscious users.

Both gadgets have 4 GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and go on sale tomorrow. The Wear Sport is priced at $349 and can be bought from Google, Verizon and AT&T. The Wear Style starts at $249 and will be available from Google or Best Buy.

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Verizon, meanwhile, introduced the Wear24, which is available exclusively from the carrier. The Wear24 is LTE-enabled and water resistant and will launch next month selling for $300 with a new two-year activation.

The smartwatch market remains a tiny segment, though, and—thus far, at least—has been dominated by Apple. Canalys said earlier this week that Apple Watch had its best quarter during the recent holiday season, shipping 6 million units and accounting for nearly 80% of total smartwatch revenue during the period.

Apple sold 11.9 million of the devices in 2016, according to Canalys estimates, claiming roughly half of the global market for the full year.

Those figures echo estimates issued by IDC late last year that pegged Apple’s share of the worldwide smartwatch market at 41% in the third quarter. But Apple's share of the broader market for wearables was only 4.9%, IDC said, highlighting the fact that sales are being driven primarily by fitness bands as smartwatches continue to struggle.

“Smart wearables have been down in recent quarters, but clearly not out,” IDC Research Manager Ramon Llamas said in a December press release. “As user tastes change, so will their needs. That’s the opportunity for smart wearables with multi-functionality and third-party applications, both for consumers and business users. To get there, we need to see more intuitive user interfaces, seamless user experiences, standalone connectivity, and applications that go beyond health and fitness and into personal and professional productivity.”

If Apple’s watch can continue to build on the momentum it began to build in the fourth quarter, it will buoy a smartwatch market that remains in need of a big lift. Whether LG, Verizon or any other vendor of Android smartwatches can gain much traction has yet to be determined.

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