Apple's watchOS 10 targets health sector; will Garmin's domain be affected?

Janet Kang, Taipei; Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Garmin assistant GM Scoppen Lin. Credit: DIGITIMES

At WWDC 2023, Apple unveiled the latest generation of its smartwatch operating system watchOS 10. Industry sources widely regarded this as the largest update since the initial version was announced in 2015.

It is worth noting that besides smart stacking, a brand-new dial, compass function updates, and NameDrop, watchOS 10 also added cycling fitness training. Users can engage in cycling workouts while wearing the Apple Watch, and the iPhone will automatically display a live feed.

The fitness training display screen shows information such as heart rate zones, elevation, route, speed, custom fitness training, cycling speed, and more. Market analysis pointed out that this is Apple once again declaring its commitment to expand into health and sports technology business opportunities in the post-pandemic era.

Experts familiar with sports technology noted that smart wearable devices have been at the forefront of sports technology trends for the past five to six years, a sign that there are significant market opportunities. Among them, Garmin, an international brand in smart wearable devices and navigation, has been attempting to capture a niche market within this ocean of opportunities.

Garmin assistant GM Scoppen Lin mentioned in an interview that business opportunities in wearable devices are on the rise. In the past two to three years, many people have elected to actively improve their immune health through physical exercise, which has resulted in "steep growth" for Garmin. The company stated that from 2020 to 2022, new user growth for smartwatches reach 33%.

In the post-pandemic era, Lin believes that the smart wearables market will exhibit a mix of steep and gradual growth. With people's awareness of health and exercise increasing significantly, he has an optimistic outlook regarding the growth potential of market demands.

In recent years, the smart wearables market has indeed been thriving. According to estimates by DIGITIMES Research, if we exclude the pricing range variations, the global shipment growth rate of smartwatches is expected to remain at a high level of nearly 30% in 2022-2023. A significant portion of the momentum comes from emerging markets. Some brands are also aiming to grab more market shares through active pricing strategies.

Regarding this, Lin believed that the current wearable device market is leaning more toward a pyramid-shaped development. Take Garmin for example; it has a stable customer base for watches priced around NT$10,000 (US$325). Products priced around US$1000 are the key contributor to sales volume. Releasing products priced between US$200–270 will further help the company reach higher sales volumes.

At the same time, observations showed a trend of major tech companies targeting professional athletes among the general public with their new product releases. This signals that pro-level smartwatches and wearables are now their targets. For instance, Apple launched the Apple Watch Ultra back in 3Q22 in an attempt to penetrate to the higher-priced market with a product specifically designed for outdoor sports enthusiasts.

When asked if he's concerned about Apple challenging Garmin's position in the sports market, Lin expressed that having some concerns is unavoidable. However, more importantly, Apple opened up the market and showed that the potential user base might be even larger than what is currently observed. This could have a positive impact on the market.