A few months ago, a 36-year-old named Adam Croft, residing in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, had a startling experience. One evening, he woke up feeling slightly dizzy, but as he made his way to the kitchen for some water, he suddenly felt an overwhelming sensation of the world closing in around him. His body was drenched in a cold sweat. Despite these alarming symptoms, he went back to sleep, thinking nothing to worry about. The following morning, he discovered that his smartwatch had been consistently alerting him throughout the night about an irregular heartbeat. His smartwatch had advised him to seek immediate medical attention at the hospital.
Subsequent examinations at Bedford Hospital definitively confirmed Croft’s AFib (Atrial fibrillation) diagnosis, which was life-threatening. In his interview with BBC, he revealed that he might not have sought medical help if his Apple Watch didn’t alert him timely.
Surprising, isn’t it?
This incident is just one of many instances where smartwatches have played a crucial role in saving people’s lives by notifying users about their deteriorating health conditions, ranging from cardiac irregularities to blood pressure imbalances and oxygen level anomalies. These wearable devices are now superheroes in our daily lives, and their importance cannot be overstated.
India, the land of vibrant cultures and flavours, is fast catching the smartwatch fever too! Indians are becoming more conscious about their health and body fitness than ever before, resulting in soaring demand for smartwatches over the past few years. Surprisingly, this phenomenal rise in demand has not only propelled smartwatch shipments in India to new heights but has also sparked intense competition among Indian and global tech companies vying for a sizable market share.
India is on the cusp of a smartwatch revolution!
Growth of Smartwatch Shipments in India
According to Counterpoint Research, India is the world’s largest market for smartwatches in terms of shipments. The unprecedented surge in demand for smartwatches in India has helped the country account for a 34% share of the global smartwatch market in Q2 2023, much higher than just a 22% share in Q2 2022.
In 2020, India, with its massive population of over 1.4 billion people, experienced an unprecedented spike in the demand for smartwatches. The country shipped approximately 2.6 million units of smartwatches, with an astonishing 139.3% YoY growth. What’s more interesting is that this triple-digit yearly shipment growth continued in the following years as the country recorded a whopping 363% YoY and 151.3% YoY growth in smartwatch shipments in 2021 and 2022, respectively. In both these years, India shattered all previous shipment records, skyrocketing from 12.2 million units in 2021 to a remarkable 30.7 million units in 2022.
Fast forward to the first half of 2023, more than 23 million units of smartwatches were already shipped in India, with nearly 128.6% YoY growth compared to the year-ago period when just over 10 million units were shipped. With the holiday season approaching, featuring Diwali and New Year sales, e-commerce giants are gearing up to unleash irresistible discounts and coupons, ensuring that this remarkable tech trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Transitioning to a smartwatch is the natural evolution for smartphone enthusiasts, bringing the future to their wrist. First, a smartphone; then, the seamless extension of tech brilliance on your wrist – the smartwatch. It’s not just a purchase; it’s an upgrade to your digital lifestyle. But have you ever thought about how many Indians buying new smartphones are also opting for smartwatches?
To understand this, we need to glance at the relationship between smartwatch and smartphone shipment data.
In the first half of 2023, India’s smartphone market recorded a shipment of 64 million units, following the previous year’s total of 144.3 million units in 2022. Interestingly, when comparing these figures with smartwatch shipments, it becomes evident that a new smartwatch found its owner for every 2-3 smartphones shipped in H1 2023. Looking at the entire year of 2022, the ratio was one smartwatch purchased for every 4-5 smartphones shipped in India
Behind the Soaring Smartwatch Craze
India is the largest and fastest-growing market for a diverse range of electronic devices, including smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, and more. This remarkable growth in device shipments within the country can be attributed to a unique confluence of factors.
Unlike countries such as China, the United States, and certain European nations, which have either reached a state of market saturation or teeter on the brink of it, India presents an enticing opportunity for tech giants. Its burgeoning population and the vast untapped market of individuals yet to embrace the era of 4G and 5G smartphones make India the focal point of the tech industry’s attention.
Currently, the smartwatch market in India mirrors the smartphone landscape a decade ago when Xiaomi made its debut in the country in 2014. As India undergoes a tech transformation reminiscent of past global tech revolutions, several key factors drive the soaring demand for smartwatches among Indians, particularly the younger generation.
Indians Embrace a Health-Conscious Lifestyle
The ever-increasing demand for smartwatches, catalyzed since 2019 and intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, is intrinsically tied to India’s burgeoning health and fitness consciousness. Indians are increasingly turning to smartwatches as faithful companions in their quest to monitor and enhance their fitness and health activities.
Among the top health-related concerns, cardiac issues loom large, with a staggering rise in cases of cardiac arrests across India. Surprisingly, the country has seen a rising number of people in their 30s, 40s, and early 50s dying from cardiac arrest in the past three years. This alarming reality has prompted a surge in the adoption of smartwatches to vigilantly monitor heart rates and detect irregularities.
Besides that, health issues such as diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, blood pressure fluctuations, blood oxygen levels, and stress have gained prominence among the younger demographic. In response to these health concerns, a fitness wave has swept the nation, with countless Indians gravitating towards gyms, fitness centres, or embarking on self-guided fitness regimens. Smartwatches have become indispensable tools for tracking vital health metrics, including step counts during workouts, daily water intake, menstrual cycles, and more.
Interestingly, young professionals and students, away from their families due to work or educational commitments, prefer to gift smartwatches to their parents to remotely monitor their health and even track their sleep patterns. This convergence of health consciousness, technological innovation, and a desire to stay connected underscores the profound impact of smartwatches on the lives of Indians across the country.
Increasing Tech Exposure
Over the past decade, India has witnessed a substantial surge in tech exposure, primarily propelled by the widespread adoption of the Internet and smartphones. This transformation owes much to pioneering companies like Xiaomi, Samsung, Oppo, and Vivo, which introduced smartphones with jaw-dropping features and specifications at budget-friendly prices. Besides, companies such as Airtel and Reliance Jio have played a pivotal role in democratizing 4G and 5G connectivity in India, ensuring that a vast majority of the population, whether owning a feature phone or a smartphone, has access to these advanced networks.
In this tech-savvy landscape, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have shaped India’s tech exposure to electronic devices such as smartphones and smartwatches. As soon as a company launches a new smartphone/smartwatch, these social media platforms become hubs of discussion, flooded with images, videos, and memes highlighting the device’s benefits, price and features. This online buzz often directs consumers to major e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart, where they can make informed purchases.
Best Companion for Smartphones
Smartwatches have evolved to become a compelling alternative to smartphones in numerous scenarios. These wearable devices offer a range of mobile features that users can conveniently access from their wrists, eliminating the need to carry bulky handheld smartphones to a certain extent. Smartwatches provide functionalities like checking the time, making/receiving calls through Bluetooth connectivity, receiving important notifications, receiving weather updates, swiftly controlling camera functions, and even staying updated on live cricket scores.
The growing prevalence of voice computing in the era of high-speed mobile internet has empowered smartwatches to execute various tasks seamlessly through voice commands. Equipped with many features, smartwatches empower users to control their smart home devices seamlessly, all without needing to retrieve their phone from their pocket or bag. This integration of capabilities positions smartwatches as versatile and efficient companions to smartphones.
Increasing Buying Power of Indian Customers
India’s economic growth has significantly bolstered the disposable income of its consumers, leading to a surge in demand for luxury and lifestyle products, including smartphones and smartwatches. It’s worth noting that India’s Disposable Personal Income (DPI) has more than doubled over the past eight years, from INR 127,256.83 billion in 2014 to INR 274,133.4 billion in 2022. This robust growth indicates a substantial improvement in the overall income available to individuals for personal spending and savings, after deducting all taxes.
The increased buying power is particularly evident among individuals employed in India’s IT sector, where the proliferation of startups and unicorns in the past five years has led to higher average salaries. These startups, mostly funded, are not just changing the entrepreneurial landscape but also redefining compensation standards. From enticing perks to the tantalizing promise of Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and regular hikes, this new era of employment offers much more than just a paycheck – it provides a gateway to the dynamic world of India’s tech-driven dreams.
As global tech giants like Apple, Samsung, Google, Xiaomi, and others have recognized the potential of this billion-dollar opportunity where consumers are willing to invest more in tech gadgets, they are actively vying for a substantial market share by acquiring a vast customer base.
Factors driving premiumization in India include value-based incentive systems for retailers, aggressive promotional campaigns, the availability of credit through various financing schemes, and the focused strategies of OEMs. This has resulted in an increasing number of people opting for premium smartphones (priced above INR 30,000, approximately $366) and stylish smartwatches to enhance their overall tech experience.
India’s premium smartphone segment grew 112% YoY in Q2 2023. This growth is particularly noteworthy because it occurred despite challenging macroeconomic conditions that led to a 3% YoY decline in the overall smartphone market. Despite this challenging backdrop, the premium smartphone segment continued to thrive, indicating sustained consumer interest in higher-end mobile devices with advanced features and capabilities.
In addition to their functional benefits, smartwatches now serve as fashion statements in India, with many young individuals using them as accessories to complement their outfits. This fashion-forward approach has further heightened the demand for stylish and trendy smartwatches in the country.
India’s Affordable Access to Smartwatches
Despite the increasing purchasing power of Indian consumers over the past decade, India remains known for its price-sensitive consumer base. Even with huge bank balances, most Indians seek affordability, discounts, and coupons while purchasing electronic gadgets. The study decline in the ASP (Average Selling Price) of Smartwatches has brought more Indians closer to the devices. The affordability factor has driven unprecedented adoption of smartwatches in the country.
The Indian smartwatch market is flooded with many budget-friendly smartwatches, contributing to this surge in popularity. According to Counterpoint Research, the market share of “Basic smartwatches” has notably increased from 23% to 34% in just one year, primarily driven by the rapid growth in the Indian market.
To secure a substantial foothold in India’s thriving smartwatch market, leading brands such as boAt, Noise, Oppo, and Fire-Boltt have even slashed their smartwatch prices by nearly half. According to an IDC report, the average selling price of smartwatches in India has dropped by 44.9% YoY, falling from $46.6 (approximately Rs 3,800) to $25.6 (approximately Rs 2,000) in the second quarter of 2023.
The widespread availability of affordable smartphones across the Indian market has paved the way for smartwatches to emerge as a natural progression in the tech evolution. Notably, many companies, including Samsung, sweeten the deal for consumers by offering compelling discounts on smartwatches when they purchase a smartphone priced above Rs 20,000. This strategy has further accelerated the adoption of these wearable devices in India.
Top Smartwatch Brands in India
Due to the surging demand for smartwatches in India, the top five brands have been witnessing double, triple and even quadruple-digit year-over-year shipment growth for the last few years. India’s dominant smartwatch market is primarily led by three key brands: Noise (Nexxbase), Fire-Boltt, and boAt (Imagine Marketing).
The data from IDC paints an even more fascinating picture of the surging demand for smartwatches in India.
Noise recorded a whopping 152.6% YoY growth in CY22 and 93.2% YoY growth in Q2 2023 in its smartwatch shipments in India. Notably, the “Colorfit Icon Buzz,” “Colorfit Caliber,” “Noise Colorfit Icon 2,” and “Colorfit Pulse Go Buzz” models contributed significantly, each surpassing a million shipments. Noise currently holds the title of India’s largest smartwatch brand, claiming a 27.2% market share in FY22, which has increased to 27.6% in Q2 2023.
Fire – Boltt, ranked second in the list, shipped 7.6 million units of smartwatches in 2022, marketing a massive 439% YoY growth. This propelled them from a modest 11.6% market share in FY21 to a robust 24.8% market share in FY22. In Q2 2023, Fire-Boltt recorded 91.1% YoY growth in shipments. However, the market share declined to 23.8%.
boAt, maintaining its position as India’s third-largest smartwatch brand, secured an 18.8% market share in FY22. Despite recording an 88.7% YoY growth in smartwatch shipments in India during 2022, the brand’s market share decreased from 25.1% in FY21. Surprisingly, in Q2 2023, boAt’s market share declined to 15.2% despite reporting a significant 54.3% YoY growth in smartwatch shipments. Key models such as the Storm Call, Wave Flex Connect, and Wave Stride accounted for over a quarter of its total smartwatch shipments in India during the June quarter.
One possible reason for boAt’s declining share in India’s smartwatch market could be intensified competition, notably from Boult Audio, which recorded an astonishing 1922.1% YoY growth in smartwatch shipments during Q2 2023. Boult Audio’s market share surged from a mere 0.3% in Q2 2022 to 3.4% in Q2 2023. Models such as Drift, Drift Plus, and Striker significantly contributed to its smartwatch shipments.
The biggest surprise comes from India’s fifth-largest smartwatch brand, Titan, which has experienced extraordinary growth in smartwatch shipments. In FY22, Titan achieved a remarkable 4018.2% YoY growth, resulting in a market share increase from a mere 0.1% in FY21 to 2.4% in FY22. In the most recent quarter, Q2 2023, Titan maintained its impressive growth momentum with a 163.1% YoY shipment increase. This growth elevated Titan’s market share to 3.4% in Q2 2023.
So, here’s the thought-provoking question: Will smartwatches with high-tech features & specs potentially outshine our tried-and-true smartphones in the near future, probably in the next decade?
Smartwatch to Replace Smartphone?
India’s smartphone market is undoubtedly massive, with nearly 900 million users, making it the second-largest in the world. However, this rapid ascent brings it close to a juncture where smartphone saturation looms. It’s projected that by the end of 2023, the number of smartphone users will breach the 1 billion mark, encompassing over 70% of India’s populace. However, despite cutting-edge innovations like foldable screens, smartphone shipments have started to plateau or even dip in various major markets worldwide. Amidst this shifting landscape, a small but powerful disruptor is gaining momentum: Smartwatches.
These small display-sized wearable devices that people are increasingly strapping to their wrists 24/7 are getting smarter and emerging as a genuine threat to the once-ubiquitous smartphones. This transformation is akin to the gradual replacement of traditional mobile phones with their smarter counterparts. Today, it is hard to find people using mobile phones without smart features and functionalities. Even feature phones have evolved to incorporate features like social media access and speedy 4G internet connectivity. Smartphones themselves have progressed to the point where they’ve assumed the roles traditionally held by tablets for many users.
Yet, on the horizon, smartwatches armed with cutting-edge technologies are poised to challenge smartphones for their throne. There is no doubt that today, wearing a smartwatch seems to be more essential than carrying a smartphone in your pocket. This shift is primarily driven by the comprehensive health tracking capabilities offered by these smartwatches, alongside their ability to perform multiple tasks – making calls, sending messages, checking emails, managing social media accounts, navigating, streaming music, and more – we typically rely on smartphones.
Major players in the tech industry, particularly giants like Samsung and Apple, who dominate the smartphone market, have heavily invested in advancing smartwatch technology. Despite this, the screen size is a significant hurdle preventing smartwatches from replacing smartphones. Smartwatches typically have smaller displays (2 inches or less) than smartphones, making certain activities, such as watching videos, less convenient. In contrast, smartphones have increasingly larger screens, some exceeding 6 inches, and this has led users to spend more time on their smartphones for activities like watching videos and playing games, even replacing the use of larger laptops and desktop computers.
Interestingly, to address this limitation, tech juggernauts like Google, Apple, and Meta are actively pursuing technological advancements like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These developments promise to bridge the gap between smartwatches and smartphones, potentially making the transition to smartwatch-centric usage more feasible.
Could this be the opening scene of a new tech thriller where smartwatches steal the spotlight from our trusty old smartphones over the next decade?
Although the possibilities in AR and VR are extensive, these technologies are still in their nascent stages.
Currently, most VR/AR headsets and glasses complement the smartphone experience, but they may replace smartphones entirely in the future. One notable example is the Samsung Gear VR, a product born from a partnership between Samsung and Oculus. By connecting a compatible Galaxy smartphone to the Gear VR headset, users can explore virtual worlds, play games, and engage with immersive content.
The highly anticipated release of the Apple Vision Pro AR/VR headset in 2023, along with the increasing availability of various AR glasses in the market, suggests that the adoption of these devices will grow significantly. With AR glasses becoming increasingly attainable and cost-effective, and as their versatility in applications and use cases continues to expand, there’s a strong indication that they could supersede smartphones as our primary tools for information access and communication.
Moreover, if tech giants develop smartwatches that seamlessly integrate with eye-tracking-based AR glasses, it could potentially mark the beginning of the end for traditional smartphones, revolutionizing the way we interact with technology. In fact, Meta has taken an active step in this direction, developing smart glasses with an integrated display slated for release in 2025. These glasses will be complemented by a neural interface smartwatch designed to control and enhance the user experience.
While the future remains unwritten, the trajectory of smartwatches is undeniably awe-inspiring. Their potential to replace smartphones, once a distant dream, now stands on the precipice of reality. As technology continues to advance, these miniature marvels could well become our primary gateway to the digital world, offering a glimpse into a future where the boundaries of innovation are pushed beyond imagination.
In the vibrant tapestry of modern India, the surge in smartwatch adoption mirrors a transformative shift in lifestyle choices. Fueled by health consciousness and a quest for seamless connectivity, these sleek devices have seamlessly woven themselves into the fabric of everyday life. With health tracking becoming a paramount concern and the allure of a multifaceted gadget, it’s no surprise that more and more Indians are embracing smartwatches. The allure of instant notifications, fitness monitoring, and the promise of a streamlined existence propels this trend. As these tiny marvels continue to evolve, bridging the gap between technology and well-being, they are destined to play an even more significant role in the lives of millions, shaping the future of how we perceive and engage with our digital world.