Most people think wearables will be a big deal, but they’re not yet, and there’s the sneaky suspicion that we don’t quite understand their best use cases or ideal UX.
Here’s a roundup of some doom and gloom surrounding wearables in early 2016.
Prepare yourself for lots of pictures of hairy wrists…
The Apple Watch just ain’t very useful (and ain’t selling)
Same goes for all smartwatches, reliant as they are on pairing with a smartphone, they haven’t carved out a niche yet. When will a truly watch-first app come along?
IDC estimates 4.1m Apple Watches were sold in Q4 of 2015, only a 5% increase on Q3 (uplift from Q3 to gift-buying Q4 is usually much higher for tech hardware).
Essentially, many analysts reckon sales in 2015 can be explained by Apple fans and the power of the brand.
Wearables absent from Mobile World Congress 2016
Well, not really, but it’s clear that the hype has disappeared, with this year’s flavour being VR and 360-degree video.
Even in the hype-driven world of flashy trade expos, if consumer uptake isn’t promising, something has to give.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 23, 2016
FitBit $50m down on projected Q1 revenue
Q1 is massive for fat fighting, which obviously forms a big part of the motivation to use a connected wristband.
The company still expects to make $2.4bn revenue in 2016, which is not to be sniffed at, but profit was zilch in Q1, as FitBit spent big preparing two new products (a smartwatch and an improved wristband that includes, amongst other features, reminders to move).
Though the end of 2015 was positive, share price is down since IPO.
Toshiba Glasses withdrawn
They were only a week from being shipped but with Toshiba in trouble (on track for its biggest ever loss this year), it has decided to focus on profitable areas of the business.
This is presumably an admission that either demand is too low, the product wasn’t great, or perhaps both. Either way, this is the latest wearable never to see the light of day.
Looking at Toshiba’s Wearables page, one can tell that priorities are a little muddled, with the website itself horribly dated.
The anniversary of the death of Nike FuelBand
Nike FuelBand launched four years ago – it’s been dead a year. It’s old enough that you can find pictures of Lance Armstrong promoting it.
Though Nike was a pioneer, its failure to adapt to Android was notable. Then, Apple incorporated a lot of fitness and lifestyle features into its devices, rendering Fuel superfluous for some.
The FT reports on so-called ‘second phoneys’, people who are fed up with the demands of a smartphone and use a dumb or feature phone in the evenings to run their social lives.
Eddie Redmayne is apparently one of these people, though presumably using a dumb phone is easy if you can just call your secretary and ask her to Google something.
Device apathy isn’t necessarily a problem at the moment for wearables, they’re a lot more passive than the smartphone.
But therein lies another quandry – wearables need to begin to offer more (become more prescriptive, offer genuinely useful apps).
Security is possibly a concern
Just this month, Open Effect released a report into the security of eight popular fitness trackers.
Only the Apple Watch was deemed satisfactory, with the other seven using static MAC addresses and therefore potentially giving away the user’s whereabouts.
But are failures a good thing?
Some argue that numerous failures mean nothing and that it’s hard to predict when success will come.
Perhaps I’ll write another article including notable successes, of which there have been many. The Mi band (by Xiaomi) is available for $15 and has sold very well.
Techcrunch has reported on a component revolution in wearables.
Industry, particularly health, is the area where wearables are predicted to have the biggest immediate effect. Perhaps the tech world’s obsession with consumer-focused products just means they’ll be a little time in coming.
For an intro to wearables, see A Marketer’s Guide to Wearable Technology.