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Apple Watch will rule wearables in 2021, but Qualcomm could help change that, here’s how

Qualcomm’s new approach to wearables might be the thing that knocks Apple off its throne, according industry experts interviewed by Trusted Reviews.

With the announcement of Qualcomm’s new vision of the wearables space with the Qualcomm Wearables Ecosystem Accelerator Program, it’s clear the company is making some serious moves forward against its competition.

The Program will encourage manufacturers, providers and vendors to collaborate and develop products together, providing an ecosystem to create differentiated wearable devices.

But with the news that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 would be ditching Tizen and adopting a new and improved version of Wear OS, what does this mean for the future of Qualcomm’s relationship with Wear OS and Apple’s current dominance of the smartwatch space?

We interviewed industry experts to find out.

Is this a sign Qualcomm is moving away from Wear OS?

“No, it’s not. Qualcomm’s 2Q21 IoT revenue increased 71% year-over-year, with the wearables market growing rapidly worldwide it makes sense to launch a new wearable platform that promotes the wearables ecosystem,” Kyla Lam, Research Analyst at IDC, told Trusted Reviews.

“The Snapdragon Wear platform has been actively supporting Wear OS, with Google’s partnership with Samsung and acquisition of Fitbit it only implicates that Google truly believes in wearables. With the expansion of the wearable platform provider, I don’t think Qualcomm is moving away from Wear OS. In fact, I think it helps increasing its ubiquity.”

IDC is an intelligence firm that examines consumer markets in various technologies, such as devices, applications and networks, to help provide solutions to expand within those markets.

Isabel Towell, Wearables Analyst at CCS Insight, mirrored Lam’s sentiment.

“Although Qualcomm has announced “new platforms” our interpretation is that platforms relate to new chipsets rather than new software platforms,” Towell explained to Trusted Reviews.

“The investment Qualcomm is making is to re-engineer its Snapdragon Wear platform (chipsets) across three tiers of wearables targeting different price points, processing needs and capabilities. It remains firmly committed to Wear OS and given the recent announcement of Samsung merging its Tizen platform with Google Wear OS it points to further growth opportunities.”

Qualcomm has introduced a new program that will allow vendors and manufacturers to collaborate.

What’s does this mean for the future of Wear OS?

Wear OS has been in a tricky situation, as Apple has been dominating the wearables market. In the last quarter of 2020 alone the Apple Watch Series 6 and Watch SE combined for 12.9 million sales, according to Counterpoint Research, making it one of the most popular smartwatches on the market.

In a move to improve on past wearables, Google is rumoured to be teaming up with Samsung, which is expected to use the Wear OS operating system in its new watches.

“With Qualcomm being the Wear OS’s chipset maker, and with the new partnerships with Samsung and acquisition of Fitbit, it shows that Google is not going to slow down. As we are anticipating Google’s big Wear OS update, such as performance improvements, versatility as well as better apps, this implies there is more room to grow for Wear OS, and Qualcomm new platform will assist that,” Lam goes on to say.

“It is also interesting to see Oppo Watch’s feature of Wear OS, as it represents a way in incentivising Chinese smartwatch vendors to enter the EMEA market, where Wear OS is popular.”

During Google I/O, Google revealed that its main focus will be improving battery life, introducing Youtube music and delivering a much-better fitness experience for its users.

Will this help companies gain ground on the Apple Watch?

“Apple WatchOS has always been the lion share of the smartwatch market; on top of its reputable quality, its marketing strategies have been undeniably successful. So far, watchmakers in addition to Apple will continue to grow,” Lam continues.

“As the Qualcomm accelerator program encourages more vendors to collaborate, it not only accelerates commercialisation, it certainly also attracts first-time smartwatch users, helping companies gain ground on wearables.”

Smart wearables are becoming more popular, with smartwatches being the most popular choice. According to Sam Mobile, over 92.4 million smartwatches were sold globally in 2019.

Towell believes that Qualcomm is trying to grow in other segments not just in smartwatches.

“However, Qualcomm is undoubtedly keen to grow share in other segments, be that more basic RTOS smartwatches, fitness trackers or proprietary watch platforms such as products from Garmin. Qualcomm also wants to tap into other areas such as kids smartwatches, which are typically all connected to a mobile network, and also phones for seniors,” Towell goes on to say.

“Our forecast indicates sustained growth in the smartwatch market – primarily fuelled by the Apple Watch, but also a growing number of Android smartphone owners who would also like to have a smartwatch. It is little surprise that Qualcomm sees this as a segment that is worth investing in.”

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