Apple made waves Tuesday by entering two new business sectors at once: wearables and mobile payments.
The company announced the Apple Watch, a long-rumored smartwatch that will synch up with iPhones and offer new fitness-tracking feature, and Apple Pay, a mobile payments service that will let users pay for things in physical stores with a tap of their phone or watch.
Wearables and mobile payments are tech sectors that already have plenty of competitors, including heavyweights like Google and Samsung, but have yet to reach true mainstream adoption. Apple will look to recreate the magic it found with portable music players, smartphones and tablets, but its foes aren’t likely to just accept being pushed to the sidelines.
Here’s a look at the current players in wearables and payments and how their efforts have fared so far:
The Product: Samsung has already bet big on smartwatches with its line of Galaxy Gear. The original Galaxy Gear, released in fall 2013, served as an accessory to Samsung tablets and smartphones, offering a way to read texts and other info relayed from the phone. The watch also sported a camera, an unusual smartwatch feature that the Apple Watch doesn’t have.
Success So Far: The original Galaxy Gear was widely panned in reviews, but the Gear 2 left a more favorable impression. Samsung claimed that it shipped 800,000 of the original Gear in its first two months on the market, but it’s not clear how many of them actually sold to customers. According to market research group NPD, 500,000 total smartwatches were sold in the U.S. between October 2013 and June 2014, and Samsung generated about $75 million in revenue from its portion of those sales.
The Product: Startup Pebble proved that the smartwatch could be a viable product line when its 2012 Kickstarter project became the most successful endeavor in the crowdfunding site’s history back in 2012, generating more than $10 million in donations. Now Pebble has grown from a clever idea into a well-established business that offers smartwatches in a variety of styles. The company’s watches link up with both iPhones and Android devices and are fairly affordable with a starting price of $150.
Success So Far: Pebble says it has sold more than 400,000 smartwatches so far and has 15,000 developers making apps for the device. According to NPD, the startup is second to only Samsung in smartwatch sales in the U.S. But these numbers are paltry compared to the scale that Apple likely envisions for the Apple Watch.
The Product: As with phones, Google will mainly take the fight to Apple in the smartwatch space via software. Earlier this year the search giant unveiled Android Wear, a version of its Android operating system tailored specifically for wearables. So far three watches make use of the software: the Moto 360, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live.
Success So Far: The LG G Watch has earned solid reviews, but the sleeker Moto G disappointed critics when it launched earlier this month. No word yet on sales of these products. Google may have higher aspiration for Google Glass, its computerized glasses that are currently being beta tested in the U.S.
The Product: With Apple positioning the Apple Watch as a lifestyle device, the company will have to take on the current juggernaut of life-improving wearables, the Fitbit. The popular electronic bracelets and clip-on devices can track everything from miles jogged to quality of sleep. The products are cheap too, starting at just $60.
Success So Far: Fitbit has managed to fend off apparel giant Nike in the fitness wearables category and now easily leads the market with almost 50% market share, according to research firm Canalys. Apple will have to convince health nuts that its product is worth three to four times the cost of a regular health-tracking device.
The Product: eBay-owned PayPal has been inching its way into physical stores for a few years now. PayPal has services that allow you to easily split a restaurant check or buy a new outfit at Abercrombie & Fitch via its smartphone app. The company also recently announced a new service called One Touch which will allow people to buy products with a single button click across a wide variety of programs.
Success So Far: PayPal processed $27 billion in mobile payments in 2013, a 99% increase from from the year before. The company has more than 150 million active accounts supplying a trove of credit card and banking info. That’s a big number, but it pales in comparison to the 800 million iTunes accounts Apple users have created, most of which include credit card information.
The Product: Google came up with a service very similar to Apple’s three years ago. Called Google Wallet, the app allows users to tie information for multiple credit, debit and gift cards to their phones, then use the mobile device to pay for items at participating retail locations.
Success So Far: The Google Wallet app has been downloaded at least 10 million times from the Android store, but the even the service’s creators have admitted that it’s not exactly setting the world on fire. The company’s latest strategy to introduce people to Google Wallet is linking it up with Gmail accounts to allow people to send money to each other via email. With more than 425 million Gmail accounts currently active, the popular service could serve as a trojan horse to to hook users on Google’s payment platform.
The Product: Square is best known for its credit card readers that are popular with small businesses, but the company has designs on eliminating the credit card altogether with Square Wallet, an app that would allow for purchases made without even the press of a button. The phone in your pocket would be able to communicate with a retailer’s payment equipment, and you’d just have to say your name to complete an order. The disruptive concept received a lot of attention, partially because Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is Square’s CEO.
Success So Far: Square gave up on the hands-free payment option earlier this year when it removed Square Wallet from the Google Play and App Stores and replaced it with Square Order, a less ambitious app that basically works like Seamless for grabbing take-out food. The company has reportedly postponed plans for an IPO as it racks up losses, though Square has denied these claims.
- The Fall of Roe and the Failure of the Feminist Industrial Complex
- The Ocean Is Climate Change’s First Victim and Last Resort
- Column: 6 Proven Ways to Reduce Gun Violence
- Ads Are Officially Coming to Netflix. Here's What That Means for You
- Jenny Slate on the Unifying Power of a Well-Heeled Shell Named Marcel
- Column: The FDA's Juul Ban May Not be a Pure Public Health Triumph
- What the Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision Means for Your State