Last week’s Black Friday was a significant barometer of the stuff that retailers are really trying to get rid of.
Among the usual electronics scrap – sat-navs, low-end laptops and last year’s TVs – this year there was another product would prices were being cut by 50% or more: wearable technology.
An activity tracker called the Up3 released by US wearable technology company Jawbone earlier in 2015, was slashed by 40%; the Pebble Smartwatch, which allows users to check smartphone notifications from their wrist, was discounted by 50%; GPS watches like the fitness-focused Garmin were £100 off or more.
Wearable technology is now struggling to live up to the hype that came with the first smartphone-linked fitness trackers and smartwatches when they arrived on the market.
With sales of PCs, televisions and tablets declining, and those of smartphones plateauing, manufacturers have invested big in wearable technology in the hopes of lighting a fire under the new product category.
This has resulted in a multitude of connected watches and wearable technology from every name in existence. In two years, Samsung has launched seven smartwatches; Apple released its own device earlier in 2015; and even traditional watch makers have come into the game: Fossil spent $260 million purchasing Misfit, a wearable technology manufacturer, earlier this month.
These manufacturers want a world in which wearable technology is at least as common as smartphones. By tracking every angle of our lives – sleep patterns, calories, and steps – we are supposed to live more productive, healthier lives. Smartwatches are supposed to free us from the distraction of our smartphones, permitting us to promptly check maps, messages and emails without having to reach for our pockets.
Fitness freaks and tech enthusiasts have harboured great expectations about wearable technology. IDC, a researcher, believes that global sales will grow by 163% this year.
However, this is relatively small and it is uncertain that wearable technology will ever develop past being a niche product. Paul Lee of Deloitte who has studied consumer behaviour regarding wearable technology states that majority of people purchase fitness trackers either to demonstrate how fit they already are; for somebody else to suggest they should be thinking about getting fitter; or as a way to motivate them to get fit.
Activity trackers are the technological equal of gym membership: people generally purchase them with good intentions, but usage slumps after a while, along with motivation, particularly if the results did not complement expectations.
The smartwatch, however, is different. You can do a lot more in addition to fitness. The Apple Watch can control music, receive texts or monitor activity. The smartwatch is also newer than the activity tracker.
However, the early signs are not especially promising. Apple definitely outsells its smartwatch competitors.
Checking emails and texts on a screen on your wrist doesn’t appear to be much more convenient than on a smartphone, and it is barely discreet.
Writing off technology in their starting years frequently makes one look foolish later in time. However, at the moment, wearable technology is little more than a novelty for majority of people.