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Apple Watch to spur record year for smartwatch displays

Nearly half of all smartwatch displays shipped this year will go to the Apple Watch, according to new data, with its many rivals having to divvy up all the rest.

Apple Watch has spurred major growth in smartwatch display shipments. Sarah Tew/CNET

The market for smartwatch displays will tally record shipments in 2015, and it has Apple Watch to thank for it, according to new data from research firm IHS.

A total of 34 million smartwatch displays -- the screens that constitutes the watch face -- will ship worldwide this year, up 250 percent compared to 2014, IHS reported Monday. The Apple Watch will contribute to 49 percent of those shipments worldwide, leaving the rest to the market's many remaining smartwatches, IHS said.

"Apple Watch has attracted a lot of attention from consumers, which has led to increased demand," IHS director of analysis and research Hiroshi Hayase said in a statement Monday.

A look at display units is an important measure in the health of the overall smartwatch market. If shipments of smartwatch displays were down or static, it would suggest that new entrants into the space, like Apple Watch or Pebble Time, are not attracting customer attention. With shipments up 250 percent year over year, the IHS data suggests that the smartwatch market is strong -- and growing.

The Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone 5 or later to run basic apps and receive notifications, is Apple's first foray into the wearables space, and a pricey one at that. It tops out at $17,000 for the 18-karat gold edition, with more modestly priced options like Apple Watch Sport, starting at $349.

Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014, and the device went on sale in April. Competitors include a range of new or updated smartwatches from companies including Sony, Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, LG and Pebble.

IHS data focused solely on display shipments and not on how vendors will fare this year, but its data on display shipments suggests that Apple will easily come out on top.

In March, another research firm, Strategy Analytics, predicted that the Apple Watch would have a positive impact on the smartwatch market. That firm noted that it foresees Apple shipping 15.4 million Apple Watch units this year, giving it 54.8 percent of the global smartwatch market. All other smartwatch makers were expected to combine to ship 12.7 million units in 2015.

Research firm Canalys reported in February that in 2014 devices running Google's wearable operating system, Android Wear, could only muster 720,000 unit shipments. A total of 4.6 million wearables, including smartwatches, shipped in 2014.

The IHS data is based on analysis the company performs on more than 35 industry suppliers and analyst notes. IHS releases several studies each year for displays of all sizes.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.