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There’s been a lot of hype around wearables in the lead-up to Christmas, with many proclaiming a festive boom for smart watches and fitness trackers to round off 2014. But with the big day just gone, how many wearable technology devices topped consumers’ lists? And what’s the next step, after the inevitable boom of the Christmas rush gives way to a quieter January?
The contenders for the Christmas crown included Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Gear Fit, Android Wear, Fitbit’s Charge and Jawbone Up 24; on the smartwatch side, the Moto 360 and (originally crowdfunded) Pebble are leading the charge. Wearable tech-heads will have to wait a little longer for Microsoft’s Band and Apple Watch, of course. The fitness oriented products on the market propose to track fitness and health data for the wearer, as well as make sense of that data. This core feature to wearables – the other is hands-free communication – is what attracted a 182% year-on-year increase for wearables sales at Christmas. Or at least, that’s what Samsung’s research teams projected for the season in October. Other projections included those published by Juniper Research earlier this year: their report predicted that the worldwide wearable tech industry would increase from 27 million device shipments in 2014, to a whopping 116 million in 2017.
Whilst the retail numbers aren’t in to show whether wearables have really fared as well as predicted over their first commercial Christmas, there are a few clues as to whether wearable tech enthusiasm has truly hit the mainstream. Although there’s clearly been a massive increase in awareness about wearables, that doesn’t mean they have necessarily made their way to Santa’s list – in fact, Ipsos Mori and its Tech Tracker find that only 1% of adults claim to own or use a Smartwatch in the UK, and that half of those people who are aware of models such as the Pebble simply don’t see a need for such a device.
There are a few factors going into 2015 that will make mainstream wearables a more realistic prospect. New platforms for developers to create apps that enable end-users to reap the rewards of wearables will emerge, making their assimilation into daily personal or working life all the more likely. Moreover, fitness and health trackers need to work harder to influence users’ behaviour if they’re really going to have an impact on health and fitness – a call that the industry is sure to answer now that uptake of early devices are so promising. Perhaps most influential will be the release of the Apple Watch (slated for “early 2015”, still) – after all, Apple do have a canny knack for being the first to bring a technology to market and simultaneously totally convincing everyone that it is a necessity. Besides, with fitness trackers currently making headway as the market leader, maybe January won’t be so quiet after all… New Year's Resolution to exercise more, anyone?
Reported by Claire Healy