Wearable technology far from tipping point

on Wednesday September 4, 2013 @ 8:22

Wearable technology, like smart watches and Google Glass, is for geeks and gadget lovers, with buyers most likely to be technology-minded men.

These are some of the results from a survey of over 1,500 smartphone owners in the US and UK that we ran together with a telecoms analyst firm CCS Insight to gauge interest in the new generation of wearable technology and smart watches.

Siim Teller, marketing manager at On Device Research said: "We are surprised by how many people are aware of wearable technology. 65% of respondents had heard of smart watches and over 50% knew about wearable fitness trackers. Nearly half of those surveyed in the US had heard about Google Glass. This is very high for a product that isn't even commercially available at the moment."

However, while awareness is high, ownership is very low and so is sustained interest. Of those surveyed who already owned a smart watch or fitness band, over 40% had stopped using it because they often forgot to wear it, or got bored with it.

"Companies making these devices need to ensure their products remain exciting for users once the initial enthusiasm ebbs. Furthermore, wearable devices need to be comfortable, attractively designed, easy to use and have great battery life," said Ben Wood, chief of research for CCS Insight.

Smart watches

From the survey, it is apparent that manufacturers need to clearly communicate the benefits offered by wearable devices. Over 80% of people who are aware of fitness trackers understand health monitoring as the device's benefit. However, calling a device a "smart watch" is misleading for consumers: despite being worn on your wrist its capabilities typically go way beyond telling the time alone.

Going beyond the gadget-lovers

Wood said: "Smart watches fall into the traditional target market for new technologies, that of gadget-loving men. Manufacturers have to urgently address how to expand their appeal beyond this usual 'geek niche' to ensure they don't end up just being a flash in the pan."

Fitbit fitness tracker

A gadget that can help improve your health looks like a winner in this regard, according to the research. Fitness and well-being is the hottest area for wearables right now, and ownership of fitness trackers outpaces that of smart watches.

With over 60% of the US consumers who are aware of smart watches citing sports and activity tracking as a key feature, incorporating these capabilities with the "second mini-screen" features such as displaying who is calling you and your latest text messages is going to be a vital ingredient for success.

Another important factor in the buying decision is price. Based on the research, this will be one of the biggest reasons why consumers won't buy a smart watch or wearable gadget. CCS Insight estimates the new products hitting the market this autumn will cost between $200 and $300. "Given many consumers are used to getting their smartphones 'free' with a contract, that's a hefty sum to pay on top," concluded Wood.

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