Wearable tech was supposed to change our lives – make us more aware of how much exercise we were getting to inspire us to take better care of ourselves. There was the Fitbit, the Jawbone, and even the Apple Watch, all of which, after the initial fascination wore off nothing changed. Now they sit in the junk drawer alongside some half-dead batteries and a few pizza coupons I might never use.
I’m not alone. A lot of the people I’ve talked to feel the same way. These wearables were a bit of a fad, even fun at first, but unless you’re so into fitness that you really have to monitor your performance, after awhile you begin to wonder why you ever bought it. Some people do love their wristbands. My brother, an avid jogger, actually owns two. But does he really need them to get him off the couch? No; he was jogging long before his first Fitbit. These wearables just don’t deliver real value – at least not yet.
Our smartphones make the internet and an endless variety of apps accessible wherever we go. Wearable tech was supposed to make us more fit by seeing actual data on our heartbeats, miles walked, or calories burned. But unless you’re on a serious diet, or training for the Olympics, it isn’t that important. What they are really intended for is becoming an addictive toy for the fitness-crazed. Which is really a small portion of the public.
Many consumer experts predicted these devices would be as popular as cell phones in the near future. One research firm (abiresearch) reported that we would be buying half a billion new wearables by the end of next year.
Apple, Samsung, and other companies have sold millions of products to the wearable tech market. But others, like Nike’s FuelBand, were so widely ignored that they disappeared from store shelves. And other successful companies are now struggling to move products. Take Fitbit, the industry leader, whose sales have shrunk from $10 billion a year to under $4 billion since the Apple Watch grabbed a huge chunk of its consumer base (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/business/fitbit-shares-tumble-18-as-apple-watch-gains-market-share.html). But using an Apple Watch requires an Apple phone.
A few business analysts remain optimistic, though they’ve had to push back their timeframes somewhat. What was supposed to be a mainstream product by 2015 may not be catching on until 2020. Instead, the market seems to heading in the other direction, barring the release of some wonderfully innovative new product.
Why wearables don’t appeal
Why are wearables losing ground? Because for many people, they’re more of an inconvenience than a benefit. They just don’t deliver enough reward to justify carrying them around everywhere, all the time. You need your smartphone to communicate, and your apps can do wonderful things like help you quickly find the best price on the new printer you were looking at. Even my clunky old wristwatch can tell me the time and date with a roll of my eyes; plus it looks pretty sharp, I think. But a fitness tracker? I already work out and play tennis a few times a week. So what purpose does it serve?
The New York Times recently spoke about the recent Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show and how most of the new wearable fitness trackers were sitting untouched next to “smart” shirts and sneakers. Some companies desperate to be that next wonderful new product are creating wristbands nobody wants to wear. For many people, fitness wristbands are just interesting but needless additions to their traditional workout clothes.
Most of these devices are functional rather than stylish. And even a brightly-colored piece of rubber is still a strip of rubber. Nerds who love tech and gadgets probably enjoy their wristband and even tell themselves it’s making a difference for the small periods of activity they do to test it. But most women, and some men, don’t need another ugly gadget messing up their look. A smartphone, after all, can be tucked away out of sight in a pocket or purse.
Fitness wristbands, in most cases, are neither necessary nor desirable. According to 9to5Mac, the Apple Watch, which can do much more, has been experiencing a relentless decline in sales. The “break-through” technology just isn’t there yet.
Do I really need to buy more expensive gadgets with more features when I’m already invested in a $400 smartphone that does all this?
I think I’ve got enough junk, for now.