The Apple Watch is finally taking off, says analyst

  • The Apple Watch Series 3 is gaining "significant momentum," according to Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights.
  • 70 percent of Apple Watch Series 3 buyers did not own the Series 1 or Series 2 product, Ives estimates.
  • Apple's Series 3 Watch introduced a long-awaited feature, cellular connectivity.

Speakers on the Apple Watch Series 3
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Speakers on the Apple Watch Series 3

It seems like third time's a charm — at least when it comes to Apple's smart watches.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is gaining "significant momentum," according to Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, previously a well-known analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

Ives checked at Apple Stores and took surveys, and found that 70 percent of Apple Watch Series 3 buyers did not own the Series 1 or Series 2 product.

"This data point speaks to our belief that the Apple Watch Series 3 could be a 'game changer' release for Cupertino to open up this wearables category for the coming years," Ives wrote in a Wednesday research note.

Apple's Series 3 Watch introduced a long-awaited feature, cellular connectivity. While users still need to pair the watch with an iPhone initially, the watch can be used for calls if the user leaves the handset at home. About 80 percent of respondents said they would opt for that feature, Ives said.

(Here's CNBC's product review of the feature).

Ives' research matches with forecasts from data firm IDC, which predicted a shift from basic fitness trackers to "feature-filled wearables."

"Previous niche features such as GPS and additional health tracking capabilities are quickly becoming staples of the modern smartwatch," Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, wrote in August, just before the launch of the new Apple Watch.

Apple's first attempts at the Apple Watch failed to impress industry analysts. But other big Apple products, like the iPhone and the iPod, also took a couple years to reach significant sales figures.

A boost in sales for the watches would be a boon for Apple headed into the holiday season, which historically falls in Apple's most profitable quarter. Apple has not reported financial results for the Apple Watch, but the "other products" category, including the watch, TV, iPods and earbuds, grew revenue 23 percent year-over-year last quarter.

"While Apple Watch sales still represents low to mid-single digits of overall revenue, this wearables category is an important product for Apple to further penetrate its massive consumer installed base and lay the groundwork for new product lines/technologies (e.g. AR glasses) over the coming years to complement its 'bread and butter' iPhone franchise growth," Ives said.

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