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Wearable Devices—Success or Flop?

Written by 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.

Up until now, the two most well-known wearable devices have been the Google Glass and the FitBit, and I think it’s safe to say that one has been more successful than the other. While the FitBit can be seen sporadically amongst groups of everyday people, I cannot think of one single person I know who has been audacious enough to sport the Google Glass. Why has everyone shied away from such an impressively capable product created by a company that we all know and trust? I think Google really missed the mark in terms of relatability—it seems to have taken the futuristic concept and run with it, forgetting that its customers are humans, not wealthy robots. The term “Glasshole ” became popular for a reason—it’s not easy to wear this device without emitting a pretentious, Inspector Gadget aura that makes one unapproachable at best.

The FitBit, on the other hand, is a very discreet and non intrusive device that combines advanced technology with practicality, and provides a simple solution to an issue that almost everyone has concerns over: their health. On top of all this, it has a much more reasonable price point (it starts at just $60 while the Google Glass will put a $1,500 dent in your wallet). 

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:


Apple Watch

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

Wearable devices in the medical industry are really exciting for obvious reasons—they can save lives (this is certainly a solution to a problem), or at least greatly improve quality of life! Some examples of what to watch for include accessories that allow patients to transmit information concerning their vital signs, blood sugar levels, pain levels, unborn babies, and more to their doctors. 

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

The type of device being most prominently produced for children is related to GPS tracking, giving parents greater peace of mind and allowing kids to be found more easily, for those who often have this unfortunate issue. Although things are quickly changing, for the moment many kids are not the owners of GPS tracking smartphones, which makes this type of device especially useful and in demand. 

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. 

Wearable devices within all sectors are exciting and present great opportunities for everyone—the consumers for obvious reasons, but more interestingly to us is the doors this industry will open to new app possibilities. The factors discussed above will certainly play a role in the success or failure of each wearable device, but another very important aspect is the way in which the apps will enrich the products and make them more desired. Almost every device will need to be connected, in some way, to an application, and this is where GoodBarbers have the chance to put their creativity to use and start exploring ways to become involved with this new trend.



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