Is wearable tech worth the hype?

Wearable tech exploded on the scene in the past few years. You probably know someone who uses it for one thing or another and some of them are among the hot holiday items. Some though consider it a fad. What is its future?

Wearable tech has a myriad of uses. It’s most common application is health related with products like Garmin or FitBit. These fitness trackers are popular with many people and help to provide quantifiable data for their workouts as well as keeping someone motivated to continue on. Most of these products come in the form of a smart watch. Experts predicted this would be the next billion dollar industry and Apple even marketed a $10,000 Apple Watch made of gold. But it would not last. Shipments of wearable tech declined in 2016 in some cases by over 50%.

The question that many are asking is if the market has dried up for these products or if it just simply saturated or if it is just a lull and will pick up again as units need to be replaced. The market leader, the Apple Watch, shipped one million units in the third quarter of 2016. That may sound like a lot but it shipped 3.9 million units in the third quarter of 2015. That moved Apple to advertise the Apple Watch as a fitness device rather than a fashion accessory. Garmin was the only smart watch maker to show any sort of increase in growth in 2016.

Even the biggest tech giant are not immune to poor sales. Google launched Google Glass in 2013 to much fanfare. Information was displayed on the glasses in something that seemed to be straight out of science fiction. Users could communicate with the Internet simply by speaking. Criticism abounded due to privacy and safety concerns and Google ceased manufacturing the device in 2015. It would be redesigned by Google and re-released when it was “perfect” to the public. Google appears to have worked it and Glass was released to businesses this year.

Smartwatch makers also face competition from normal watchmakers as well. Many of their watches provide much of the same information and for much less of the price or in a more stylish look. Digital watches have provided the date and time to users for years and some have done much more than that. Considering that much of the public uses a wristwatch to have the date and time, many feel that there is no reason to get a smartwatch since a smartphone can do much of the same things.

Despite the slower sales, wearable tech is still among the hot items for the holiday season of 2017. Sales have also picked up for Apple, which released the Apple Watch 2 during the 2016 holiday season leading to what CEO Tim Cook said was growth “off the charts.” Why are sales picking back up? It is actually quite simple. The smart watches are being linked into the cellular network providing nearly complete freedom for the user. The idea for this has been around for years, stretching all the way back to Dick Tracy comic strips from the 1930s. With a resurgence there is another question to ask: Could this be the end of the smartphone as we know it?

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