Are affordable smartwatches worth it? A deep dive into the Indian smartwatch market

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India’s smartwatch market has grown to new levels in recent months – but that depends on how you look at it. While some smartphone makers are already launching their offerings, several Indian brands have recently jumped into the running with their range of affordable smartwatches starting as low as Rs. 2,000. These models are significantly cheaper – in some cases around 20 times – than what you have to pay for an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch. In most cases, the prices of smartwatches these days are roughly at the level of fitness bracelets.

On this week’s episode of the Gadgets 360 podcast Orbital, host Akhil Arora speaks with IDC Research Director for Devices and Ecosystems in India and South Asia Navkendar Singh as well as in-house reviewers Aditya Shenoy and Ali Pardiwala to help you decide what an affordable smartwatch can offer you.

Singh tells us that about 95 percent of the smartwatches currently on the market are priced below Rs. 4,000. IDC doesn’t consider affordable models to be smartwatches, but rather “simple” connected watches. In the podcast, he adds: “For us, a smartwatch is one that can carry a third-party app or has an app store. […] Technically, smartwatches aren’t doing very well in India.”

Based on this definition, there are few options available in the market namely Apple Watch series running watchOS, Samsung Galaxy Watch series and other watches running on Google/Androids Wear OS. All other options on the market are mainly based on a real-time operating system, also known as RTOS, which does not support app installs and has a limited list of features.

Simple watches – or the affordable smartwatches, if I may call them – allow you to get real-time notifications from your connected phone and even integrate some wellness/fitness features, including heart rate monitoring. Some of them even let you monitor blood oxygen saturation, which is commonly known as SpO2 tracking.

And after the proliferation of simple smartwatches, fitness bands have more or less lost their market in India. However, Xiaomi is one of the companies that is still actively manufacturing fitness bands. With continued growth, smartphone vendors like OnePlus are also planning to enter the affordable smartwatch market.

The smartwatch market in India posted the strongest year-on-year growth in 2021, with local brands beating Chinese counterparts

One of the main reasons affordable smartwatches are selling like hotcakes in India – as opposed to their premium counterparts – is their design, which is often in keeping with the Apple Watch. Businesses also try to have different headline features to attract customers to their offerings over the competition. That could include a variety of fitness modes, watch faces, and even color options.

The range of affordable smartwatches is vast as you can get models from brands like Redmi, Realme, Amazfit and Gionee, as well as Indian players like BoAt, Noise and Fire-Boltt. Still, the experience is more or less the same on all of these devices.

For example, most wellness features aren’t as accurate on affordable watches, Pardiwala and Shenoy point out. When comparing your results to those of an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch, there may be discrepancies in the high single digits. Traditional vendors like Garmin also offer smartwatches with a range of fitness tracking features that are far more accurate than what you get from an affordable model.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus review: For fitness enthusiasts

Although devices like the Apple Watch have received FDA clearance and are approved as medical devices, they are not designed to be the equivalent of sophisticated medical devices.

Towards the end of the new Orbital episode, we offer advice on which smartwatches to consider if you want one on your wrist today. For those interested in the business side of things, our talk also includes some additional industry insights from Singh.

Listen to all of this and more in our 30+ minute talk by clicking the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.

If you’re new to our site, find the Gadgets 360 podcast Orbital on your favorite platform – be it Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Gana, JioSaavn, Spotifyor wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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New Orbital Episodes are released every Friday. So make sure you tune in every week.

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