Wearable Devices—Success or Flop?
Written by Ali Soroka on Monday, March 16th 2015
In honor of the recent buzz over wearable devices, it seems like the perfect time to delve into this topic. “Wearable Device” is a term that gets thrown around quite often, but until just recently, it’s been more of a figment of the future. There have been some attempts here and there, and we often hear all about cutting edge gear that’s on the brink of becoming huge, but whether or not wearable devices are on their way to becoming integrated parts of our lives in the way that smartphones have is something worth wondering about.
Based on these examples, I have made an early-stage analysis on what I believe makes a wearable device a success or flop, from which you can make some predictions on what will happen with other, quickly approaching devices in this industry.
What must a wearable device do to be successful?
There are a number of things important in determining the success of a wearable device, the first concerning how “wearable” these accessories are for real, everyday people. The product should either go physically unnoticed, or be stylish and attractive enough for consumers to want to display it on their bodies, without having to have a science fiction vibe.
The device also needs to solve a problem that hasn’t already been addressed by smartphones. Smartphones and the apps that go with them are pretty amazing and have an extremely vast range of capabilities, so this is a big feat that requires a lot of creativity and innovation.
Additionally, User Experience needs to be taken into consideration–this was a major complaint that many had about the Google Glass, as it displayed images directly in the center of the users’ vision. There cannot be anything disruptive or obtrusive happening; it should simply perform its task while going completely unnoticed.
Finally, wearable devices must respect users’ rights. Many people have privacy concerns, and rightly so (this is an accessory that will literally follow you everywhere and has the power to track your every move). This sounds like the existing situation with smartphones, but in the case of wearable devices this concern is amplified, as they are even more personal and never leave one’s side.
So, if the product can manage to look good, respond to an unmet need, and be respectful of UX as well as privacy, users will certainly be interested. Additionally, if you consider the enhanced possibilities that the apps accompanying these products can bring, the chances of success are increased. Let’s take a look at the most highly anticipated item—the Apple Watch—as well as some other industries that are integrating wearable devices:
The Apple Watch, which has recently been unveiled, performs a number of tasks similar to the other products in its family. It serves as a fitness tracker, a payment method, a platform for displaying apps, and also provides many functionalities of a smartphone (messaging, calendar, maps, etc.). It surpasses its “predecessor” (Google Glass) in the way that it can be considered more wearable—it’s less blatant and boasts a sleek, sophisticated design. The bottom line is that you do not have to look like a techie while wearing this product, which is something that has proven to be very important to users.
My concern about the Apple Watch is that it is not serving any purpose that the iPhone does not already. This watch will most definitely not be a replacement for a smartphone, but more of a complement that should offer unique functionalities, but does it? The prime target market for this accessory is individuals who are already Apple users (the watch requires a connection to an iPhone), which means they need to be enticed by some specific aspect that is not satisfied by their mobile device alone—I’m not sure that the Apple Watch offers something like this. However, it is coming into the market with a really strong reputation backing it up, so it will be interesting to see if it takes off.
Devices in the Medical Field
This would clearly be a huge advancement for the medical world, taking healthcare to the next level. They also differ from the other categories of wearable devices in the way that they do not heavily emphasize the geolocation factor (they are dedicated more to accomplishing an important task regardless of the user’s location), which lessens security concerns. Fitness trackers may also be included in this category, but I have a feeling these specifically may be on their way to becoming a thing of the past, as smartphones will soon include advanced motion sensitivity capabilities that will perform the same functions (no need to wear an extra device if you are already carrying your cell phone that can do all of this).
I anticipate that this concept will really take off as consumers start to recognize the massive benefits that it could bring, and for anyone looking for an up and coming sector to be an early adopter in (app wise), I think this is a very promising one.
Devices for Kids
Other devices becoming popular for kids include learning/activity trackers, wearable baby monitors, and even items to keep kids safe while swimming. It’s an interesting field that has not been explored a whole lot and has a lot of room for growth.