New Survey Shows Apple iWatch Has Legs

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A new survey from 451 Research's ChangeWave service shows exceptionally strong consumer interest in an Apple "iWatch" device.

"Apple's track record of delivering ultra-convenient, easy to use products with a perceived 'cool factor' is driving pre-release demand for the rumored Apple 'iWatch,'" said Andy Golub of 451 Research's ChangeWave service. "While an 'iWatch' doesn't yet exist - and if it ever does it will have to live up to super high expectations - it has the potential to be another huge success for the Cupertino, CA manufacturer."

The survey of 1,713 primarily North American respondents was conducted March 4-19.

Consumer Interest in Apple "iWatch"

Many analysts believe Apple is planning to release an "iWatch" later this year - a device that would sync with an iPhone or iPad to handle many common tasks such as phone calls and texting. Other features could include mobile payments, Siri digital assistant and health monitoring sensors, among other things.

To measure consumer interest in such a device, we provided respondents with a brief description of probable features and asked how likely it is they'll buy an "iWatch" if-and-when it becomes available.

The survey results show very strong consumer interest - with 5% of respondents saying they are Very Likely and 14% Somewhat Likely to buy an "iWatch" for themselves or someone else.

How does this level of interest compare to earlier Apple products before they were formally announced?

While there are no exact comparisons, here are the Apple "iWatch" results in relation to the ChangeWave pre-release findings for two earlier very successful Apple launches - a January 2010 survey on the original Apple Tablet and an August 2005 survey on the Apple Intel Mac.

The pre-release findings for the Apple "iWatch" are nearly identical to consumer interest in the Apple Tablet (Jan 2010) and Apple Intel Mac (Aug 2005) before each were officially announced.

"iWatch" Demand - Apple Product Owners vs. Non-Owners. Apple product owners are five times more likely to buy an "iWatch" compared to those who do not own any Apple products (25% vs. 5%).

So why are consumers so interested in an Apple "iWatch?" A couple of factors stand out.

Loyalty to Apple (18%) is a key reason respondents are likely to buy the new device - not surprising considering a disproportionately high number of Apple product owners are likely to buy an "iWatch."

Other top reasons include Convenience (16%), Cool Factor (14%) and Ease of Integrating with Other Apple Products (11%).

Competition in the Wearable Technology Space. Several other leading technology companies are also already involved in the wearable technology space - including Samsung, Google, and Microsoft, among others.

It's still early in the game in this emerging sector - but once the first blockbuster product or two hits the shelves it should move quickly considering the level of participation among top technology firms.

Importantly, these same companies are also battling it out in the smart phone market, where ChangeWave's April Smart Phone Demand survey of 4,011 consumers shows Samsung continuing to surge - driven by its upcoming Galaxy S IV and growing interest in larger-sized screens.

Next 90 Day North American Smart Phone Demand

Better than one-in-four planned smart phone buyers (27%) say they'll purchase a Samsung phone over the next 90 days, a 6-pt jump since the December survey.

The impact Samsung is having on the market becomes more apparent when we look at consumer buying plans for the next 90 days among other major manufacturers:

The powerful wave of iPhone 5 demand that rocketed Apple to its all-time high just two quarters ago continues to settle back. Apple still leads all manufacturers in terms of North American demand in our survey, with two-in-five respondents (40%) who plan to buy a smart phone in the next 90 days saying they'll get an iPhone.

Rumors circulating about a next-gen iPhone range from a low cost model that competes directly with Samsung, to multiple model devices in 2013. Nothing is certain at this point, but undoubtedly many consumers are holding off on Apple smart phone purchases in anticipation of an upcoming release.

For the second survey in a row, Blackberry (7%) is registering a 3-pt uptick in planned buying. The road back for Blackberry remains a long, uphill battle, but they are finally seeing a spark of life in the consumer market after many years of market share decline.

HTC (2%) is unchanged from previously, but we note that the release of their new One model is just getting underway, and the survey was conducted prior to the announcement of the HTC First - which features the new Facebook Home software.

Smart Phone Customer Satisfaction

The Apple iPhone continues to outperform when it comes to customer satisfaction, with 70% of iPhone owners saying they're Very Satisfied with their phone.

Samsung is also maintaining its strong satisfaction rating, with 54% of its customers saying they're Very Satisfied with their smart phone. Nokia (51%) ranks a respectable third.

Blackberry (32%) still comes in last in satisfaction, but for the second survey in a row is seeing a major improvement - it's up 11-pts in the past six months. HTC (39%) has also improved for the past two surveys (up 3-pts).

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