Samsung, Pebble lock up smartwatch sales in US

The two vendors collectively hold over 90 percent of the US market, NPD says. What will it take to grow the market further?

Samsung's Gear 2 smartwatch. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung and Pebble are dominating the US smartwatch market.

Samsung has carved out a hefty 78 percent of the $96 million in smartwatch sales seen in the US since October, with Pebble accounting for around 18 percent, NPD said Wednesday. The market researcher didn't specify who owns the remaining 96 percent, but Sony and Qualcomm also have bitten off a small piece of the pie. A third of all units to date sold during last year's holiday season.

The public still hasn't fully embraced smartwatches. A recent poll conducted by NPD found that only 20 percent of consumers were interested in buying a smartwatch. Most people cited price as the No. 1 limiting factor. However, the industry may be poised for growth as prices have been coming down.

Thanks to sales promotions, increased competition, and the bundling of phones and watches, the average price of a smartwatch has dipped to $189.

"We've seen smartwatches become more affordable as manufacturers eye the opportunity to add them to smartphone purchases almost as an accessory," Ben Arnold, executive director of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement. "Like any new product category, the overall [average selling price] on these devices will decline as the market becomes more diverse with budget, midlevel, and premium product offerings."

Samsung and Pebble may be the top dogs right now. But that status could change dramatically if Apple releases its much-rumored health-oriented iWatch later this year. A device that successfully unites a smartwatch and a health monitor with the usual Apple touch could easily dethrone Samsung from its top perch.

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