Oh my. Canalys reports half-year 2014 Android Wear smartwatch shipments of 720,000 units, and the Apple-loving free press categorizes the number failure. Meanwhile, the analyst firm boasts that “All eyes are now on Apple, which will reveal further details about the Apple Watch prior to its release in April”. Not mine. Are yours?
Over at Wall Street Journal, Rolfe Winkler begins his hatchet piece with: “It’s been a slow start for Google’s smartwatches”. The search and information giant doesn’t sell any of the devices, developing the underlying platform. Nitpicking aside, he ridiculously writes: “Apple sold roughly 114 million iPhones over the same period. That means Apple sold almost as many iPhones each day as makers of Android smartwaches sold over the six months”. Oh yeah? That comparison matters how?
Apples to Coffee
According to Starbucks, 60 million people visit its stores each week. Assuming that only 40 million buy coffee, then the company sells more cups of Joe in three weeks than Apple sold iPhones during the previous six months. There you go! Case closed! iPhone is a failure. You can complain about my analogy, but the measure of coffee to iPhones makes about as much sense as comparison to smartwatches. They are quite different categories.
What would make a bit more sense is Android Wear to iPhone during summer 2007, when the device was, like Google-powered smartwatches in 2014, a new category. By that reckoning, the original iPhone reached 1 million units in about 74 days. If that’s your measure of failure, fair enough. But consider this: Canalys claims Moto 360 is the Android Wear market share leader, but the smartwatch’s sales started in early September, selling out almost immediately.
Rolfe quotes Canalys analyst Daniel Matte: “Android Wear is not very good”, then paraphrases about poor battery life. That’s a category-wide problem, by the way, although in his press statement Daniel claims: “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”. Based on what disclosed facts? If as widely rumored, expected charge lasts as much 19 hours. consider this: Gizmodo published a review of Sony’s newest Android Wear today, finding that the “SmartWatch 3 routinely nets over 48 hours”. Forty-eight is less than 19 in what universe?
I know. I know. You may feel a little uneasy comparing smartwatch to smartwatch and actually discussing the type for which Canalys reports shipments. But, hey, not everything in life is about Apple or compares to iPhone.
Something else to ponder: Categorization. Canalys’ numbers make Android Wear devices look less than they really are. That 720,000 is from a pool of 4.5 million. Except—and someone correct me, if I am mistaken—Canalys lumps together timepieces and fitness gadgets, calling the category “smart wearable bands”. Or did I miss something, and the 1 million Xiaomi Mi Bands shipped tell time and run smart apps? Combining two marginally-related device categories gives Android Wear about 16 percent market share, creating even more negative perceptions about its success—or seemingly lack of it.
Now, it’s a little unfair to single out WSJ, so who else swung the hatchet in the most irresponsible manner?
- BGR: “Almost nobody wants an Android Wear watch right now“
- CNET: “Android Wear gadgets not a big hit…“
- re/code: “Android Watch Sales Are Running Slow“
- SlashGear: “Apple Watch may have already beaten Android Wear“
That last story is excellent segue to the idea that, based on Canalys’ presentation of the data and media-bias giving the fruit-logo company millions of dollars in free publicity, that Apple’s timepiece wins the smartwatch wars without ever shipping. It’s just too fraking strange for my sensibilities, since there’s presumption Apple Watch will be better based on nothing more than conjuncture, while misrepresenting the success of the early-to-market leaders—and the group is much larger than Android Wear devices; Pebble, anyone?
Common sense news reporting may wane, but it’s not gone. Take a look at Andrew Cunningham’s ArsTechnica headline: “Android Wear sales: Bad compared to phones, OK compared to other watches“. He writes: “These numbers are decidedly unimpressive when considered next to smartphone sales numbers…but by smartwatch standards, the Wear ecosystem is collectively doing OK”. That’s quite a bit better than bad.
Journalist peer Kevin Toffel’s Google+ post brought this total news reporting mind-frak to my attention. He writes:
Bit ludicrous to compare recent iPhone sales—a market that’s been around for 8 years now—to the first 6 months of Android Wear sales. I might have taken the article seriously had that not happened. Folks: Smartwatches are accessories. Not everyone wants or needs them. In fact, I’m not sure we’ve decided what an optimal smartwatch should even do.
He absolutely is right. So what? If Apple Watch sells 1 million units in, say, 24 hours, will fruit-logo crusaders call that a success by comparing to Android Wear while ignoring the iPhone matchup? You can’t have it both ways; if the Google platform underperforms compared to iPhone than so must Apple Watch if the numbers are any less than the handset.
So there you go. Maybe Apple Watch is a loser instead. Because the Wall Street Journal and many other blogs and news sites have set the measure of success as 6 months of iPhone sales.
Photo Credit: Franco Folini
Editor’s Note: A version of this story appears at BetaNews.