Jun 09, 2014

What is it going to take for wearables to achieve real market penetration?

There has been a wave of wearables hitting the market for the past year or two, with everything from Nike’s Fuelband to Pebble watches to Google Glass getting lots of press. However, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen people “in the wild” wearing any of it. Granted, I’m in the midwest and not San Francisco, but the old saying “it will play in Peoria” still had a point, and from what I’ve seen it’s not playing in Peoria. Is it just too early for widespread adoption at this point? Are we going to ever see wearable acheive ubiquity in the same way smartphones have?

I think they might work well for fitness enthusiasts. Beyond that I'm hard pressed to find a market for them, but then again I haven't seen whatever Apple is coming up with in the fall. I'm sure they have an idea of who is going to buy these things, though I remain very skeptical about their practical uses.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

They have to find an itch that needs scratching. I do not see a compelling purpose for most wearables at this point. Most of them simply provide a different UI to perform some of the same functions as a smartphone, or they simply interface with a phone that the wearer is also carrying. Spending one or two hundred dollars so that I can check my messages on my wrist instead of pulling my phone out of my pocket really doesn’t seem like a compelling purpose to me. Some of them don’t even let you read the message, they just tell you that you have one and from whom. 


I’ll concede that there may be some fitness related functions such as monitoring heart rate that wristband wearable could perform well. Judging from Nike’s experience with Fuel Band, that isn’t a compelling reason to use wearables either.


As for Glass, it is simply too expensive. In fact, most wearables are for what they do. Also Glass just doesn’t look cool, and I don’t need to spend $1500 for a device that makes some people uncomfortable when worn in public...although I do think most complaints are overblown and border on paranoia.

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