Samsung’s been in the smartwatch market for at least 2 years now, with the company’s Galaxy Gear and then Gear lineup (running Tizen OS, not Android; this is why Samsung dropped the “Galaxy” from its smartwatch branding) starting the current smartwatch movement. Samsung’s Gear S2 is the company’s sixth smartwatch (Galaxy Gear, Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Live on Android Wear, Gear S, Gear S2) and the company’s seventh wrist wearable since late 2013. Apple just announced the Apple Watch one year ago at the iPhone 6 announcement. Despite the amount of time Samsung’s been in the game, though, tech reviewers and analysts predicted the rise of Apple to dominate the smartwatch segment.
The Apple Watch lives up to analyst expectations
And the numbers have proven that prediction correct. In Q3 2015 (July-September 2015), Apple outsold Samsung by a wide margin, having sold 4.5 million smartwatches to Samsung’s 600,000. The Apple Watch seems to be popular, and Apple has been known for popularizing products that have otherwise been neglected or ignored altogether.
While Apple now holds 72.8% of smartwatch market share, Samsung now holds a mere 9.8% of smartwatch market share worldwide. Analysts say that the Apple Watch could have a serious rival contender on its hands in Q4, with Samsung’s Gear S2 now becoming available.
The Apple Watch and Gear S2 go head-to-head
The Gear S2 has a rotating bezel, circular shape, and Rotary UI, which will rival the “Bubble UI” look and the square shape of the Apple Watch. Samsung has even added two versions of its Bluetooth-connected model, with a Gear S2 (Sci-Fi or original) and the Gear S2 Classic with a genuine leather band. As for the price, the Gear S2 costs $299 for the original model, $349 for the Classic model, and $399 for the upcoming Gear S2 3G model. The Apple Watch, at its bare minimum, costs $349 for the most inexpensive Bluetooth-only model, called the Apple Watch Sport. The price of the Apple Watch increases if you decide to swap out the sport band for a more premium one.
What analysts don’t want you to know
The above sales would prove intimidating if there weren’t a few neglected factors at play. First, it is true that the numbers, in a sense, don’t lie: Apple did sell 4.5 million, and “4.5 million” is greater than “600,000” anyday. At the same time, however, one must place these numbers into context. Taking into account Apple’s opening sales weekend for iPhones, Cupertino sold 13 million iPhones. Since the Apple Watch mandates the use of an iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6s, then, we can see that Apple’s 4.5 million smartwatches constitute one-third of its iPhone sales. And the total customer base must be considered, which means that the 13 million iPhones sold on opening weekend aren’t all of the pool of users to consider. Overall, then, Apple may have sold smartwatches to only 5-6% of its own user base.
In contrast, Samsung’s Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic are attracting Android users across the board, with Samsung having integrated Android 4.4 KitKat or higher compatibility with its Tizen-based Gear S2. At the same time, however, Samsung hasn’t sold as many smartphones on its opening weekend, and Samsung is but one of a handful of Android manufacturers. Whereas everything is a 1:1 ratio for Apple, Android is multi-faceted with quite a few manufacturers carving up sales.
In that regard, it’s good news for Apple, but it’s not such a slam-dunk against Android OEMs who have to share their successes in Android. Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear S2 may prove a winner in places where its Z1 smartphone has taken off and sold 1 million copies or more. But the comparison isn’t quite as direct and as mindblowing as analysts and fanboys make it out to be.