Are There Enough Real Takers For Smartwatches?

by Sohini Bagchi    Aug 25, 2015

smartwatches

There’s lots of buzz around smartwatches in the industry, and practically, every other day, we get news and updates on these new-age devices and how they will change consumer’s way of life and work. While tech (and non-tech) titans, from Apple to Samsung and LG and from Tag Heuer to Swatch - set out to show off their new gadgets, the question still remains, “Are there enough real takers for smartwatches?”

Upbeat yet nascent

Although smartwatch has been around for a while now, Apple Watch is said to spin the fortune of smartwatches – the impact of which can be felt in the coming months. A Tractica research forecasts that, of 24.4 million smartwatch shipments in 2015, Apple Watch numbers will be around the 16.7 million mark. The report expects Samsung’s Tizen with around a 12 percent share and Google’s Android Wear with an 8 percent share following suit. 

Read more: Apple Watch: Is Wearable Tech A Hype Or Reality?

There are others in the fray too. IFA, one of the largest European tech shows in September, is expected to be all about smartwatches. LG’s ‘next big’ smart wearable, code-named LG-VC110 is likely to create milestones soon, is aiming at the budget wearables market. Asus’ upcoming ZenWatch 2, its first Android wearable, will also to be launched in the coming weeks, giving tough competition to Apple and Samsung.

Not only tech companies, traditional watchmakers such as Tag Heuer and Swatch makers are also working on smart models, heightening the competition. Swatch has just announced its plans to come up with new smartwatch range early next year. CEO Nick Hayek calls it a “smartwatch featuring NFC for mobile payments, as an alternative to credit cards. 

Read more: Why Cos Should Look Before They Leap Into Wearables

Despite the momentum, smartwatches still remain nascent. A GfK report forecasts that in 2014, global smartwatches accounted for just 1.2 percent of the wearables market. Android Wear smartwatches which sold just around 7,20,000 units in 2014, of a total of 4.6 million wrist-worn wearables, according to research firm Canalys. This is much below the expectations of analysts, which predicted last year that the worldwide shipments of smartwatch would climb past 5 million by 2014.

A Harris survey found that 59 percent of Americans don’t see the need for wearable technology. While on one hand, the awareness on wearables is very low, at the same time it is often condemned by users owing to security and privacy nightmare.

Big security lapses

Smartwatch manufacturers have also been accused of choosing convenience over security.  A study by Trend Micro, which tested all six of the “big brand smartwatches” on the market and found that overall physical device protection on all devices was poor, with no authentication through passwords or other means turned on by default.

Bharat Mistry, Cyber Security Consultant at Trend Micro said in a statement, “On the surface, a lack of authentication features can make devices appear easier to operate, but the risk of having personal and corporate data compromised is much too big of an issue to forget about.”

The user authentication is also not good enough in most cases. The researchers particularly criticized Google’s Android Wear OS, when it came to its trusted devices feature as it could allow anyone with a smartphone and smartwatch to have unrestricted access to both.

Another report from HP’s Fortify division looked at 10 different wearables and again reported big lapses when it comes to user authentication and various other security issues.

Batteries not smart

Most wearable devices — smartwatches particularly — don’t have batteries that are powerful enough to make them both useful and long-lasting. Without better battery technology, wearable devices may never mature beyond a passing trend, believe analysts.

Larry Burgess reports for ReadWrite that batteries are one of the biggest hurdles in the way of the advancement of wearable devices. “ Smartwatches have yet to find their killer app (or gain the battery life to enable users to rely on apps, or simply wear them for more than a day or two without recharging). They also have yet to find a form factor appropriate for small wrists or those looking for a device that looks more like a traditional watch than a piece of technology,” he says.

Finally, the biggest challenge holding smartwatches back is the cost. Most devices are priced on a par with high-end smartphones, but they only offer a fraction of the functionality. Tech analyst Mark Hearn writes in his blog, “In their present form, smartwatches are still unpolished, unproven and ultimately unnecessary… a reason why they’re not flying off the shelves.”

 

Experts believe unless smartwatch players can come up with a clear-cut reason why these devices are actually needed, they will be on the brink of extinction even before reaching maturity.