Monday, 16 January 2017 21:30

Smartwatches down, fitness wearables up

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A new report from Juniper Research confirms what IDC and others have been saying – high-end smartwatches are faltering and crossover fitness wearables are booming unaffected by the premium smartwatch decline.

It is not so much the watch format — round/square/rectangle/analogue/digital or band style — but the “fitness for purpose” and functionality. When a $200 crossover (lower cost, designed for fitness tracking with some smart features like notifications and durable enough to take the beating of fitness use) does most of what an Apple Watch does at up to several times the price, it becomes a no-brainer – most average people will buy a Fitbit or Samsung Gear Fit 2.

Juniper calls this the identity crisis – a fitness tracker with some smart features is all most people need. A dedicated smartwatch appeals to a much smaller quantile.

High-end smartwatches may have started the “category” but now that initial interest has waned, the segment is consolidating. Motorola and Huawei have both withdrawn for the present, while Pebble and Vector have been acquired by Fitbit. That sector is now primarily the preserve of Apple (market leader) and Samsung, together with traditional watchmakers like Fossil and TAG Heuer.

Juniper research author James Moar, said, “Now that the initial smartwatch buzz is over, a longer product lifecycle and sluggish adoption are responsible for the slowing market, as users do not regularly upgrade. The smartwatch is now a category waiting for a market.”

Other key findings include:

  • Despite being present in several smartwatches, NFC is unlikely to generate new use cases for the category, as it is frequently locked into the device vendor’s mobile payment system, hindering innovation.
  • Customisable watch faces dominate smartwatch app downloads, implying that Android will take most of the category’s software revenue.
  • The hold-up for smartwatches has been a lack of strong killer apps. This has allowed cheaper devices with basic features to take up a large chunk of the market. A fitness watch does not need a huge app catalogue – and that is okay for now.

The full research paper titled “Can Smartwatches make up for lost time” is available here.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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