Is this the end of the smartwatch era?

Is this the end of the smartwatch era?

Previously we have been writing about the Apple watch in our 'Boys with their toys'-series . Since the moment that smartwatches became available, we have been testing and using several smartwatch models, from Samsung Gear and Android wear to the Pebble and the Apple watch. But what we really like to know is, whether it is justified to speak of a ‘revolution' of the smartwatch...(as in the case of the smartphone)? Is the smartwatch going to be an ubiquitous device on most people's wrist? Or will it simply be another “toy” for techies and early adopters?

We will tell this journey in a series of 4 blogs over the next coming weeks. In this 1st blog we are going to shed some light on the current state of the smartwatch market. In the 2nd blog we will try to give insight in the usability and collect positive feedback from smartwatch users around us. What works and what should be working better? We will point out areas of improvement in the 3rd blog. Eventually, we will come to a validated opinion of the future of the smartwatch in  the 4th blog, based on our (Oxyma & aFrogleap) experience insights.

Hype or fad?

Remember the Gartner Hype Cycle? From trigger to hype to commercially viable

We interpreted four emerging technologies and applications

that integrate human and technology, based on the degree of maturity and adoption of these technologies. We have seen that in the past few years wearables - propelled by smartwatches - are slightly beyond the peak in the hype cycle that all tech products go through. Now, almost one year later… Do we believe the hype and is the smartwatch here to stay? Or is it a fad?

Gartner Hype Cycle for emerging technologies

As with most consumer electronics, new technology increases the capabilities of products over time. The emergence of the smartwatch was reinforced by bluetooth technology. This provides connectivity, with the user and with other devices.

"Wearables, including smartwatches and wristbands, are on the rise, and the battle of the ecosystems is intensifying. Wearable providers need to create compelling scenarios to increase daily usage and create close links between a user, the ecosystem and services around a wearable device."Angela McIntyre, Research Director at Gartner on wearable electronics for business.

According to Gartner, smartwatches are the fastest growing category of wearables. However, smartwatches are still in the early-adopter phase, estimated for a period of 5 to 10 years before reaching mainstream adoption. Gartner forecasts that the worldwide sales of wearable devices will grow with 18.4% in 2016. This indicates a 66,2% increase in smartwatches sold, with a total sale of 50.4 million units compared to last year.

"Though the sales of smartwatches are the one of the strongest types of wearables, their adoption will remain much below sales of smartphones (Angela McIntyre)."

Driving the hype

It maybe feels like smartwatches are the next big thing, but they've actually been around for quite some time. Where the first smartwatch didn't have anything to do with connecting to a phone, today’s smartwatches are basically an extension to your smartphone.

Due to Apple's strong lifestyle brand that popularizes wearables as a trend, the smartwatch shows the greatest revenue potential for the near future of all wearables. Not surprisingly that two third of the total smartwatch sales is driven by the Apple Watch. Speaking of intensifying ecosystems, obviously, no other smartwatch provider wants to get behind with their promising product launches.

In order to drive smartwatches into consumer mass-market adoption, there are a few things to consider. The various phases in the cycle that go from consumer awareness to interest and eventually usage, are driven by the relevance for the user. Consumers really need to feel the added value that a smartwatch has over a straightforward fitness tracker. On top of that, converging fashion and tech into one product might also be something that most consumers do not feel yet.

So, what's next?

Based on the above we can conclude that the current state of the smartwatch is a bit of a flux. The question is if the hype and the expectation are the problem, or that the actual devices are the problem? Though, predicted to e see the smartwatch going through the hype cycle in a fairly fast pace. And sales are (depending on your expectations and context) not that disappointing. In the next articles you can expect the high's and the low's of our own group of smartwatch users.

Do you have a smartwatch and do you feel like contributing to our research? Fill in the questions in this typeform survey to give us more insights!

Apple Watch