(Source: GizMag)
Moto 360 leads the pack in Android Wear) sales; Samsung is top in total sales (for Tizen + Wear), Fitbit is top seller in bands space

While 2014 was a watershed year for smartwatches, in terms of visibility, the public is still approaching the devices with trepidation.  That's the take home message of a new report from market researcher Canalys who estimates that in 2014 Google Inc.'s (GOOG) OEM partners sold 720,000 Android Wear smartwatches.

Among the high profile Android Wear models of the year were: Android Wear -- 2014

The commentary of Canalys VP analyst Chris Jones suggests that Lenovo's Motorola is the clear leader in units shipped for Android Wear, with the Moto 360 being the best-selling device on the platform fo 2014.  LG saw improved sales of the G Watch R over the first generation G Watch, which sold poorly.

In total true smartwatches (like Android Wear, Tizen, and Pebble devices) and smartbands/fitness trackers sold 4.6 million units in 2014.  In the smartwatch subcategroy Samsung dominated in overall sales (with its Tizen sales counted in).  Jones comments:

Samsung has launched six devices in just 14 months, on different platforms and still leads the smart band market. But it has struggled to keep consumers engaged and must work hard to attract developers while it focuses on Tizen for its wearables.

Kickstarter backed smartwatch startup Pebble -- also saw strong sales.  From the launch of its device in July 2013 through the end of 2014 it saw impressive sales of over 1 million units.  

Pebble watches
Pebble saw a lot of success, moving 1 million units in a year and a half.

Fitbit was the top seller in the "basic bands" space, moving over a million units for the year.  While Fitbit remains the market leader in the west, in the world's largest electronics market (China) a new top dog emerged -- Xiaomi.  Currently the third place smartphone maker globally, this fast rising Chinese OEM moved over a million units of its bargain-priced $13 USD Mi Band fitness tracker.
Xiaomi Mi Band

Xiaomi Mi Band
Retailing for ~$13 the Mi Band became China's fastest selling fitness tracker.

Canalys research analyst Jason Low comments:

Though the Mi Band is a lower-margin product than competing devices, Xiaomi entered the wearables market with a unique strategy, and its shipment volumes show how quickly a company can become a major force in a segment based solely on the size of the Chinese market.

The market researchers are pretty bullish on Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) upcoming Apple Watch, which ships in April at a starting price of $349.  They argue that Apple did a better job wooing appmakers to its platform and educating on its smartwatch SDK.  It also claimed that Apple's SDK restrictions will deliver better battery life than Android Wear.  Analyst Daniel Matte remarks:

Apple made the right decisions with its WatchKit software development kit to maximize battery life for the platform, and the Apple Watch will offer leading energy efficiency.  Android Wear will need to improve significantly in the future, and we believe it will do so.’

Apple Watch
Canalys believes Apple is taking a smart path with its smartwatch. [Image Source: Engadget]

While the research note declined to make much in the way of predictions for 2015, the sales numbers suggest that this year will be a critical test of smartwatches.  It remains to be seen whether there's sufficient consumer interest to drive sales of true smartwatches up from the current level of around 2 million units a year.  With Apple's arrival the smartwatch space should grow to 5-10 million units, but given the consumer uncertainty its sales will be closely scrutinized for signs of weakness.

Sources: Canalys [press release], via The Verge

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