Are We Already Giving Up On Smart Wearables?

by Sohini Bagchi    Feb 13, 2015

smartwatch

Wearables are probably the most-hyped thing in the world of technology right now, but a recent report shows that sales of these devices had been rather disappointing. Yes, we are talking about 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, as Canalys itself predicted last summer that the worldwide shipments of smartwatch would climb past 5 million by 2014.The disappointing figure has sparked fresh debate on the future of wearable devices.

It’s too early

Android wear needs to mature for better consumer adoption, believe experts. Daniel Matte, a research analyst at Canalys pointed to the poor battery life of the devices as one big reason they haven’t taken off, arguing that Google should have further streamlined its mobile operating system so the watches could last longer than about a day between charges.

At its annual developer conference last June, Google was upbeat about its Android smartwatches, especially Lenovo’s Moto 360 (the only wearable brand witnessing maximum sales). Other models are sold by Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Sony and Asus. 

Read on: Wearables Are Reshaping Marketing Strategies

One of the biggest problems with these watches as Matte notes is that there’s no third-party software ecosystem for smartwatches that we have for smartphones.

“Sales were crimped by a dearth of apps for the watches. There are tens of thousands of apps available for Android smartwatches, but that’s a fraction of the more than one million available for Android smartphones. That’s left many consumers wondering why they need another digital device,” Matte told WSJ blog.

Apples of hopes

There are two parts to this debacle. First would Android watch’s failure pave way for Apple Watch which is likely to arrive in April. It is estimated that Apple will sell 26.3 million Apple Watch units by the end of 2015, just eight months after it goes on sale. Even if we lower the projections by 50 percent, would leave Android Wear choking on its dust.

On the other hand, a successful launch by Apple may also drive  widespread consumer interest in wearables and give Android Wear room for improvisation. As Canalys notes, unless we see some standout Android Wear bands this year, the Google platform might be in trouble - especially once the Apple Watch drops and steals the spotlight like Apple products always do.

But what if the Apple watch also fails to wow the masses? Analysts are heavily banking on the first all-new product launched under chief executive Tim Cook. It will certainly dissuade consumers from adopting these devices.

As tech analyst Iris Vermeren notes, “It will take time for wearable technology to hit the mainstream because they do not fulfill an existing need or serve a behavioral pattern.”

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

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, it is often condemned by users owing to security and privacy nightmare.

“Companies looking at CRM systems, social intelligence tools and database upgrades should start planning for the influx of new data coming from these devices,” says Vermenen. She believes that new wearable devices will need to prove that these can help you to do smart things you wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise. For example, a wearable device that recommends you how to eat healthier rather than just tracking your eating habits would prove more useful.

In other words, Google and Apple have to convince people that there’s a utility beyond seeing notifications and the time or else, it will meet the same fate as Android wear is facing, or even worse!