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Wear OS, HarmonyOS to Register Strong Growth in Global Smartwatch Market in 2024

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The global smartwatch market has been growing rapidly for multiple years now driven by the explosion of basic smartwatches priced mostly under $100 and running proprietary or real-time operating system (RTOS)-type operating systems with basic functionality and applications. On the other hand, advanced smartwatches (those with High-Level Operating System or HLOS) have been growing steadily mostly driven by Apple and Samsung until now.

However, according to our latest global smartwatch tracker and forecast by region, brand and OS, the global HLOS smartwatch market is estimated to grow 15% annually in 2024 in terms of volume, after a flattish growth in 2023. The major part of this growth will come from non-Apple smartphone users adopting either a Google Wear OS-based smartwatch if outside China or a Huawei HarmonyOS-based smartwatch if in China.

For example, in the advanced smartwatch segment, we estimate the Google Wear OS share outside China will climb to 27% in 2024. The growth will be primarily driven by the availability of more advanced smartwatches powered by Wear OS, like the latest adoption by Google Pixel and OnePlus Watch 2, along with the refreshed Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 series.

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Commenting on the market performance, Senior Research Analyst Anshika Jain said, “Just as in the case of smartphones, where there is a shift toward premium devices in consumer buying patterns, we are witnessing that first-time smartwatch users or upgraders in the Android camp are now looking for a much better user experience and are willing to spend more when going for their next purchase. Due to this, we expect greater adoption of Google’s Android Wear (Wear OS) since these devices provide a robust third-party app experience, Google AI assistant, and precise health tracking, customization and battery optimization.”

Jain added, “Until now, most of the Wear OS adoption was driven by Samsung smartwatches, and there were limited mainstream options for Android smartphone users. However, starting this year, we are seeing Google and Qualcomm managing to attract their leading smartphone customers such as OnePlus, OPPO and Xiaomi to launch Wear OS-based smartwatches outside China at attractive high-tier price points. Further, Google’s own Pixel watches will also continue to contribute to the Wear OS adoption globally.

In addition to Wear OS, we are witnessing the growth of HarmonyOS powered by the increasing popularity of Huawei smartwatches in China. On this trend, Associate Director Ethan Qi said, “In 2023, the overall HarmonyOS shipments grew almost 2x, surpassing Apple’s WatchOS. HarmonyOS’ shipment share is further estimated to reach 61% in China in 2024, up from 48% in 2023. The launch of 5G smartphones by Huawei last year and the resulting growth have acted as a key catalyst in driving the attach rate for Huawei smartwatches and expanding China’s advanced smartwatch market.”

Source: Counterpoint Global Smartwatch Quarterly Model Tracker, Q1 2018-Q4 2023

In terms of smartwatch chipsets, Apple and Samsung currently hold two-thirds of the advanced smartwatch market. Hengxuan and Qualcomm are expected to witness double-digit growth in 2024. Qualcomm’s market will be driven by more launches on its W5+ Gen 1 and W5100 processors, while Hengxuan’s growth will be mainly driven by the adoption of Huawei and Xiaomi smartwatches in China.

In terms of new and future launches, we are seeing a new trend of having a dual-chipset and dual-OS strategy, which combines a high-end processor, like from Qualcomm, with a low-power co-processor and a hybrid version of Wear OS, allowing smooth integration and switching between RTOS and HLOS depending on the user application, to boost power and performance. Players such as Ambiq Micro, BES Tech and Goodix will benefit from this trend and expand their share in the advanced smartwatch market. Therefore, there are more collaboration opportunities available in the market for hardware players with software platforms like the Wear OS to expand the device’s capabilities. Companies such as MicroEJ will also play a key role in abstracting the dual-OS application complexities.

While there are emerging trends when it comes to OS and chipset strategies, we are also seeing smartwatch displays becoming a key component for differentiation. Counterpoint company DSCC’s Senior Director David Naranjo said, “According to our smartwatch display panel shipments tracker, the advanced smartwatch, which mostly sports cutting-edge OLED and MicroLED displays, is bound to see an increase in orders for suppliers in the 16%-18% range in 2024 due to strong momentum after the second half of 2023 and the blended OLED panel pricing declining by 3% in addition to larger display sizes.”

Types of smartwatches:

*Advanced or HLOS smartwatch: Electronic watch running a high-level OS, such as Watch OS (Apple) and Wear OS (Samsung), with the ability to install third-party apps.

Basic smartwatch: Electronic watch running a lighter version of an OS, with no ability to install third-party apps.

Background

Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media, and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects, and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

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