The wearables market appears to be in a limbo. However, it’s too soon to write off the technology, because potential for exponential growth remains. People who feel that wearables have no future might benefit by recalling predictions made by Bill Gates and Sir Alan Sugar about the internet and the iPod, respectively. While not quite down and out, it is safe to say that wearable technology has not managed to live up to its hype.
Three to four years ago, wearables were touted as the next big thing – aided by advancements in microprocessors, wireless communication, and touchscreens. Unfortunately, most wearables have been little more than exorbitantly priced beta-level devices that have not delivered as expected. Returns have been rather high and instances of people simply not using their devices are common as well. So, what went wrong?
In 2015, after the launch of the first Apple Watch, several users took to social media to point out a significant flaw. If the person wearing the watch had a tattoo on the wrist, the watch failed to detect skin contact or read a pulse, and even asked for the pass code repeatedly. Other wearables that rely on similar heart rate tracking technology have the same problem, not just with tattoos but with dark skin as well. Physiological factors such as tattoos, skin tone, and even the presence of sweat or hair poses still poses challenges and manufacturers of wearable devices continue to grapple with this problem.
The Cost Factor
Gav Smythe, founder of iCompareFX, opines that, “most of the wearables released so far have been expensive, not just for the buyer, but to manufacture as well.” He points out that while the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google sells for around $350, its comparable version, the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket, sells for $148. The wearable technology is all that differentiates the two. The Apple Watch Series 3 can set you back by $329 to $1,399, depending on the variant you choose. Oakley’s sunglass/personal coach hybrid, the Radar Pace, costs a prohibitive $449.
According to eMarketer, while the typical U.S. consumer has access to a powerful computing device at all times, wearables with lesser computing prowess still don’t feature highly on most people’s lists. It estimates that only around 15% of adults in the U.S. regularly used wearables in 2016. While smartphones and wearables are not entirely comparable, fact remains that smartphones can do just about everything wearables can, whereas wearables come with limited functionality.
While some wearable devices have better battery lives than others, there are ones that require to be charged every so often. Battery lives that are quoted take into account minimal usage, and power drains much quicker than expected when the devices are in full use. Turning to Wi-Fi charging in the future might put an end to this woe, although how long that might take is anybody’s guess.
The main problem with wearables is they’re not quite the all-purpose computing and communication devices that they we believed they might be. For the likes of the Google Glass and the Ring that failed, there are devices such as the Apple Watch and fitness trackers by Garmin and Fitbit that continue to find favor with consumers. So, while wearables haven’t lived up to their expectations in the last few years, there is no writing them off yet.
Jon works as a researcher with iCompareFX, a website that gives its users the ability to compare the world’s top overseas money transfer companies. When he’s not working, he likes exploring different genres of music.