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Published October 24th 2014

Why Wearable Tech Hasn’t Reached The Mainstream Yet

More people are exhibiting interest than are not, but what does this tell us about future sales of wearable tech? Is it bound to be a success?

“Smartwatches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets,” said Chris Jones, VP and Principal Analyst at research firm Canalys, last summer.

According to their forecasts, the smartwatch market was expected worldwide shipments to hit 500,000 this year and climb past 5 million by 2014.

2014 was said to be the year of wearable tech! At that time, Samsung had already launched its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, the Nike Fuelband had hit the mainstream and there were rumors circulating of Apple launching a similar device soon.

What’s more, our research shows that the conversation around wearables has jumped a staggering 190% over the last year, an increase similar to that of wearable tech production.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 1.47.25 PM_BW

More people are exhibiting interest than are not, but what does this tell us about future sales? Is it bound to be a success?

Not necessarily!

Consumers who eagerly bought devices like the Fitbit Flex are ditching them due to lack of interest. eBay is currently flooded with people trying to get rid of their Galaxy Gear, Nike has ended the production of the Fuelband and the general public think Google Glass owners are creepy.

Fairly soon after Google announced Glass, bars in Seattle and San Francisco banned them and “glasshole” became the term du jour, to belittle early adopters as pretentious posers.

What’s more, these two charts below illustrate that even though Google Glass is the most talked about product, all that buzz doesn’t necessarily have an impact on the sales figures.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 2.05.51 PM_BW

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Wearable technology is still yet to hit the mainstream and there are a few reasons why.

Firstly, wearable tech doesn’t fulfill an existing need or serve a behavioral pattern.

A Harris survey found that 59% of Americans don’t see the need for wearable technology. Often people don’t know what it’s for in the first place and how they should use it. It’s not something we generally need in our lives. We’ve been sleeping and exercising for ages without the need to examine pools of data telling us how well we’re performing.

Secondly, many experts say that this explosive growth in wearables could lead to a security nightmare.

Wearables don’t meet our privacy needs. They need to evolve with the needs of each users. For example, I might be willing to share my sleeping pattern with my GP but not with my manager.

What’s more, if you’re wearing a gadget – whether that’s on your wrist, around your neck or in front of your eyes – you’re letting the world know you own it. You might become an easy target for hackers. What happens if your data is shared with or sold to third parties?

Publicly snapping photos, shooting videos or mapping your location also have the potential to compromise the privacy of others.


But it’s not just privacy concerns that hinder the appeal of wearables. Another concern is that they’re expensive and lack style. Consumers don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on devices that will be immediately outdated.

Even if devices were priced at $100, only 38% of those surveyed by PwC are somewhat likely to purchase one. When the price reaches $300, the numbers drop to just 5%!

If it doesn’t fit into our day-to-day wardrobes, we won’t be inclined to wear them, making it harder to become part of our daily routine.

How often do you see people taking a picture or reading texts on their watch? My guess is rarely, if at all. Until wearable technology fits in with the rest of our accessory choices, people will be slow to adopt.

Many wearable devices still require too much set-up time, authentication, syncing, powering up, etc. to improve what we can already do today. Currently available smartwatches typically run on processors and internal components designed for smartphones. Hence, most smartwatches end up with a bulky frame and short battery life.


In order to become socially acceptable, wearables need to be stylish, durable and ‘invisible’. They need to find a better way to integrate into our clothing.

Lastly, the audience interested in tracking all aspects of their lives and willing to wear a visible gadget is very niche. Some say they only cater to early adopters. This is also one of the reasons why fitness trackers only predict to reach 250 million people by 2017, just about 3% of all mobile users.

Concerns around cost, privacy and style are just a few of the reasons why wearable tech is not on consumers’ radar yet.

Consumers are holding back. So what can brands do in the meantime?

Companies looking at CRM systems, social media intelligence tools and database upgrades should start planning for the influx of new data coming from these devices. If they plan to launch new wearable devices, they will need to prove that it helps you to do smart things you wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise.

For example, a wearable device that recommends you how to eat healthier rather than just tracking your eating habits would prove more useful.

Perhaps the smartest move right now is to serve a desire that fits with the public’s current behaviors. Over time this natural behavior can become habitual or even the norm, making it easier to sell new technologies.

Who knows, it might even be wearable!

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