Are we at the Smartwatch tipping point ?
You can’t swing a mouse at any tech event without hitting yet another “Smartwatch” and so it would seem like everyone in the world can not wait to get their hands on/ under a smartwatch.
But is this fact or fiction?
The jury is still out.
Having watched the smartwatch market evolve and grow over the past couple of years, I am still undecided if the smartwatch is a must have product add-on to the smartphone or is the smartwatch a simple case of the mobile companies being forced to produce these out of fear of being perceived as not being innovative. In other words, if everyone is producing these devices, then there must be a market and therefore any self-respecting company must have one in their catalogue. History is littered with companies who ignored trends (perceived or not) which resulted in their downfall.
There seems to be a market. Currently, those who purchase a smartwatch are those early-adopters-must-have-all-gadget which can hardly be seen as the typical mass market consumer. In the past, at the inception of the mobile phone era the same early-adopters purchased these devices, and as real-applications became available such as “email on the go”, then these became mainstream devices which evolved over time. Today, we live in a different time where there is no longer this inherent fear of technology and therefore we are likely to adopt tech simply because it is there and it preforms cool stuff (price dependent of course). So when it comes to smartwatch adoption, I am not convinced there needs to be a massive real-world application that will be the tipping point for mass market adoption. However there needs to be apps. Just being able to tell the time is not enough. Apps are becoming critical to the smartwatch success as they start to make the device more useful and not be seen as a cell phone strapped to your wrist.
Interestingly, IBM had developed the WatchPad 1.5 smartwatch back in 2000 which had a 320 × 240 QVGA monochrome touch sensitive display, ran Linux 2.2, had 8MB of RAM and an accelerometer, vibrating mechanism, Bluetooth and even a fingerprint sensor and ran calendar software. It seems like very little innovation has happened in 15 years…
Nevertheless, according to Smartwatch group, “40 companies have launched smartwatches in 2013. They jointly sold around 3,1 million units, generating a market volume of 700 million USD” and there is no signs of this slowing down in 2015 especially with the introduction of the Apple Watch which has the fans salivating at the thought of wearing the Apple product. Even though Samsung did not release a new smartwatch, the Gear S range coupled with the Note 4 is selling well. LG has their smartwatch Watch R and Huawei has entered the game with their new round face smartwatch too.
So are wearables “a thing” ?
Yes. Fitness bands started the push and Smartwatches picked up those features and enhanced them beyond just the fitness market. I suspect wearable technology will change over time to be more useful, less reliant on the phone and more integrated into clothing, glasses and other apparel. Smartwatches are that bridging-tech that allows us to think differently about our time pieces and a see our mobile phones in a new form factor.
Will smartwatches be “a thing” that we all will own ? Time will tell.
* headline image from Shutterstock.com