Her words left me wondering ‘will the term “Wearable Tech” soon become obsolete?’ and should I be surprised if it does? Well in an industry where many factors play a role, it is not an impossible outcome. So to really answer that question we will need to get into our ‘DeLorean’ and cast our mind back to a time to where the word ‘Wearables’ first started to gain momentum.
Wearable tech began on the wrist. Some believe that it first came to the forefront when startup brand Pebble kicked off the smartwatch trend with its first product back in July 2013. The launch of Pebble began a trend of “wearables” that had the early adopters of technology excited and salivating. They all wanted to own a smart device that was worn rather than carried. As wearables gained recognition, many ‘experts’ predicted that they were destined to revolutionize how consumers will come to interact with technology. Now 2 years later the outcome seems to tell quite a different story.
Consumers first acknowledged the existence of wearables via fitness trackers. They were these cool must have wristbands that promised to be your personal trainer, health consultant and running buddy all in one. They tracked your fitness and kept you healthy. It all sounded quite exciting at the beginning, but like a one trick pony, it was not long before the simple rubber band stopped exciting consumers the way it used too.
With interest waning, some brands like Nike’s Fuel Band bowed out, whilst others like Jawbone and Fitbit, attempted to become more than just a fitness tracker. They started to up their PR by collaborating with well known fashion brands. This light bulb moment allowed them to bring to market products that went beyond being ‘just another fitness tracker’. A good example of this is the collaboration between Fitbit and accessory designer Tory Burch. When the two brands partnered up it exposed Fitbit to column inches in all the ‘right’ fashion publications like Elle, Grazia etc. Fitbit’s attempt to become more than just another health tracker brand was a smart move which has so far held the consumer’s attention and kept Fitbit in the game.
As wearable technology continues to move from the fringes into the mainstream, the term ‘Wearable Tech’ is also evolving. With an objective to become the norm, it will most likely take another 5- 10 years of the industry finding its way, all the while sorting out the ‘potentials’ from the ‘what were we thinking’. I am sure that when Wearables finally become accepted as an everyday essential, today’s crop of wearables will be seen as primitive. The next five years are crucial. It is a time for improvements to be made with the aim to design and create wearables that will appeal to consumers who today feel like the devices that are currently being introduced to the market are more about the ‘want’ rather than the ‘need’.
Want vs Need is an ongoing battle when it comes to whether Wearables are really something that we need rather than something that they need us to want. It is this realisation, that makes one understand why the excitement of the Apple Watch has wilted. When it comes to the Watch, those who where already sold on the idea have bought their watch and are busy getting to know it better. As for the rest of us, we are still not convinced that there really is a clear cut reason why we need to buy one. Like the mobile phone, maybe when the Apple Watch becomes more affordable, functional and fashionable, then the tide will start to really turn.
In today’s world we feel like we cannot live without our mobile phone but we can quite happily live without wearables. So step in the big boys. The bigger brands are playing an important role in attempting to bring wearables into the mainstream and accelerate their acceptance. Brands like Apple are believed to have the power to assist other smartwatches struggling with market acceptance by raising the profile for all wearables. It was obvious to all that Apple did pull out all the stops in their attempt to drag the wearables industry into the mainstream. It was just unfortunate that “the most advanced timepiece ever created” was unable to completely convince consumers that they need wearables in their life.
That being said, the Wearables industry should not be deterred. As long as the great wheel of innovation continues to turn, wearables will continue to evolve in the direction of being fully embraced by mainstream consumers. I just think that those consumers will be the millennials. Why? because they are the generation to whom an iPad is the norm and not the great innovation that those non-millennials think it is. So on that note, I do not think that the term “Wearable Tech” will become obsolete, I think it will instead be repackaged and rebranded for a generation to who wearables will be this unobtrusive passive technology that is the way of life.
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