Vendors shipped 1.9 million smartwatches in 2013

Android dominates thanks to Samsung's Galaxy Gear

Global smartwatch shipments reached 1.9 million units last year, and Google's Android mobile OS captured a 61 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics.

The nascent smartwatch market is starting to take shape and there is huge opportunity for growth. In 2012 vendors only shipped a few hundred thousand units, said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

Samsung's Galaxy Gear helped Android achieve its dominant market share. The device is being promoted heavily in the U.S., U.K. and South Korea, the market research company said.

Android has several challengers in the smartwatch space, like Firefox and Pebble OS, but none of them are a major threat at this stage because of their relatively limited ecosystems and modest retail presence.

Instead, the main threat to Android's smartwatch dominance will come from Apple, Microsoft and perhaps backers of Tizen or COS (China OS). These four have the potential scale or marketing power to offer a credible alternative to Google's platform, according to Strategy Analytics.

Apple hasn't announced a smartwatch yet, but if it does, that product will likely act as catalyst for the whole sector, Mawston said.

For smartwatches to achieve the same usage success as smartphones and tablets, almost everything about them has to improve, including the hardware and the surrounding ecosystems of apps. Prices also have to come down.

"Today there is quite a big gap between what smartwatches cost and what most people are willing to pay," Mawston said.

The 1.9 million smartwatches manufacturers shipped last year compares to about 227 million tablets and 990 million smartphones, according to Strategy Analytics.

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