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‘Smart watch not yet must-have’

Smart watches will not replace smartphones for the next five years, according to a report from Gartner, a U.S. tech research firm.

“Wearable devices will remain a companion to mobile phones at least through 2017,” the report predicted.

Fewer than one percent of premium phone users will opt to replace their phone with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet, according to the report.

This year, the development of smart watches by electronics makers has dominated the headlines of tech media. Following Samsung Electronics’ unveiling of its smart watch Galaxy Gear at IFA in September, its rivals Sony, Google and Apple look set to jump into the competition.

Sony rolled out its Smart Watch 2 last month and Google and Apple are reportedly slated to unveil theirs by next year.

However, first mover Samsung’s Galaxy Gear doesn’t seem to be riding high in the market yet. Media recently said it was offered for free with the Galaxy Note 3 by British handset seller Phones 4U, and others said it has a 30 percent return rate at American company Best Buy.

The sales of Galaxy Gear since its launch in September are reportedly less than 50,000 units in total.

Gartner says there are several challenges to overcome in order to appeal to mass markets. Smart watch makers should not only “focus on hardware but also apps and interoperability across devices.” They should “provide open APIs and entice the developer community to invigorate smart watches.”

The report also suggested smart watches should have some stand-alone functions such as playing music, monitoring physical activities and biodata via different sensors. It should still be smart even if it is disconnected from smartphones.

In 2014, smart watch shipments are expected to grow to 5 million from 500,000 units this year, while smartphone shipments will be around 1.2 billion next year, according to analysts.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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