Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Smartwatches: Slow Burn Or Burnt Out


News from the smartwatch sector has been pretty consistent over the last half year: Microsoft abandoning the market, Apple Watch sales down, Android Wear partners halting development and Pebble being absorbed into FitBit.

All the signs are that our appetite for the smartwatch isn't huge. That isn't necessarily the case.

Personally I find nothing in the smartwatch market offers anything like a compelling reason to replace my real, actual timepiece. I - and others like me - aren't typical. 

We know, from research figures bandied about at the launch of the original Apple Watch, that the younger generation eschews watches, having grown up with the smartphone as their primary timekeeping device.

Manufacturers just have to sell them on the idea of something that straps to the wrist, rather than replacing an existing product.

It's easy to compare the (lack of) growth in smartwatch sales with the smartphone market. However many consider the iPhone as the birth of that segment, that's very wide of the mark. When the  iPhone arrived in 2007 the smartphone market had been growing for years. when Sony-Ericsson introduced the P800 in 2002 it had everything that would meet the definition of a smartphone today - camera, touchscreen, downloadable applications and bluetooth. Missing just a front facing camera and Wifi access to be comparable to most modern devices.

It wasn't the first device on the market either, just the first to truly fit the modern smartphone definition. Yet until the iPhone arrived five years later the smartphone was restricited to a very small group of technology, business and early adopter users.

It's this point in the smartphone adoption profile that smartwatches most closely mirror today. I suspect that it won't take Apple, Google and Samsung five years to crack the market either. If you take elements of the Apple Watch, the Gear S3 and Android Wear, you could conceivably put together a compelling smartwatch today.

It won't be enough to convert those who wear watches on our wrists today, perhaps it never will be, but then there are those who still carry around dumb phones today and maybe us watch owners will be as big a source of derision in that new era.

Don't dismiss the smartwatch because it hasn't taken off yet. It's time is coming.

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