Should You Build Smartwatch Apps in 2019?

Smartwatches will only grow more popular in coming years, according to a new report from analytics firm IDC. That’s good news for Apple, which continues to lead the category, as well as developers considering whether to develop wrist-based apps over the next year or two. With vendors large and small showing off their wearable wares at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, it’s worth exploring how smartwatch software might evolve.

IDC also believes that future smartwatches will offer a broader range of functionality. “First, smartwatches will focus on convenience by proactively providing glanceable and actionable information to the user,” wrote Ramon Llamas, research director for IDC. “Second, smartwatches will provide new means of communication between users, and this is where cellular connectivity will play a significant role in its development. Third, smartwatch operating systems will emphasize connection, not only between users but between wearers and other smart devices and systems.”

The firm believes that Apple’s WatchOS will continue to hold the category lead, with a 35.8 percent market share in 2022 (down from 44.4 percent today), followed by Android-based smartwatches with 22.4 percent. In third: WearOS, Google’s rebranded smartwatch OS, with 19.8 percent. Smaller platforms will take the rest of the market-share pie.

Of course, 2022 is still a long time from now, and in the technology industry, things can change very rapidly. In December 2006, remember, nobody had any clue that Apple was weeks away from introducing the iPhone, which radically altered the mobile market in ways nobody could predict. In other words, there’s every possibility that some enterprising company could roll out a smartwatch in 2020 that becomes a paradigm-shifting hit—making a mockery of these IDC predictions in the process.

That aside, developers who are interested in smartwatches can take some heart in predictions like these: It’s clear that the smartwatch category isn’t going anywhere, whether or not WatchOS manages to hold onto its lead, or a new competitor emerges. Indeed, developer tools for these various platforms have grown more robust; for example, WatchOS 5, released a few months ago, now includes APIs for workout tracking and the Siri digital assistant. If you’re interested in building a “wrist app,” perhaps 2019 is your year.

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