Over 330,000 smart watches were shipped in 2012, led by Sony and Motorola. This year, Kickstarter-backed Pebble Technology has joined the fray, helping shipment expectations to exceed over 500,000 units. In 2014, however, the figure is expected to grow at least nine-fold and exceed 5 million.

The latest estimates come from Canalys, an independent analyst firm which says it stakes its reputation “on the quality of our data, our innovative use of technology, and our high level of customer service.” Nevertheless, the company is largely basing everything on the expectation that a new generation of devices will launch from the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung.

While we don’t doubt next year will see a big jump, the figure for this year is a bit low. Three months ago, ABI Research projected 1.2 million smartwatch shipments in 2013.

While ABI Research doesn’t mention Pebble, Canalys does. The smartwatch maker has already surpassed 275,000 preorders, which would mean it is going to ship more than half of Canalys’ estimates for the year, and makes us think ABI Research’s figure is closer to the mark.

Again, all of these are just predictions, and are likely to be very off from the actual numbers that we see for this year and next. What Canalys and ABI Research can agree on, however, is that smart watches will be companion devices all about glanceable information, sensors, and hooks into various Web services.

“Smart watches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets,” Chris Jones, Canalys VP and Principal Analyst, said in a statement. “Software platforms tied to smart watches will also be a tremendous opportunity for developers to write apps in categories such as health and wellness or sports and fitness.”

We can agree with the second statement but we’re not so sure about the first. Smartphones have already replaced watches for many people, and more and more kids are growing up without ever owning or wanting a watch.

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