April 03, 2014, 2:41 AM — eBay is rapidly filling with second-hand Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatches, a hint that the wearable gimmick may be running its course already. Considering that it just started last year, that's remarkable even by the usual 15 minutes of fame standards.
A new white paper from Endeavour Partners found that one-third of American consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months. The study also found that while one in 10 American adults own some form of activity tracker, half of them no longer use it.
Strategy Analytics says just under two million smartwatches shipped globally last year, with Android (mostly Samsung) accounting for 61 percent of that figure. Gartner puts the total 2013 worldwide sales of smartphones at 968 million, so it's pretty clear smartwatches are not matching the phones. Strategy Analytics also found wearable fitness gear, like heart rate monitors or pedometers, also suffer the same rapid abandonment fate.
Then there's Google Glasses, where the reaction has been rather negative as people fear being recorded. One woman was assaulted for wearing them in a San Francisco bar, of all places.
So what's going on? Why are the few people who buy smartwatches dumping them? There's a few reasons:
- They're nothing great: Reviewers like TechRadar point out that the Galaxy gear is ok, but nothing really knocks your socks off, while CNet said it lacked a lot of vital features. Not a good way to sell $179 watches.
- No demand: Seriously, did anyone want this? Watches had fallen out of favor with many people, particularly the Gen Y and Millennial crowds, because it was a "single-use device," and besides, if you needed the time, just check your smartphone. Which leads to number three.
- Not another gadget: I've heard this lament for some time now. People have enough to carry around, they don't want more. We carry enough. I have a phone, that's it. I'm not going to strap on a heart rate monitor or pedometer or expensive watch that does what my phone does.
- Lack of awareness: According to the NPD Group’s Wearable Technology Study, 52 percent of consumers say they’ve heard of wearable technology devices, and about one-third said they are likely to buy one. That's still half the country not knowing these things exist.
- There's nothing revolutionary here: Probably a bit repetitive with the first point, but different enough. Ask yourself, have wearables brought something to the market that was missing, lacking, and desired? Did they finally get a concept right after years of failure? The answer to me seems to be no and no, which would explain why they failed.
It's still early. Don't forget the early days of MP3 players. They were all pretty much terrible until Creative Labs came out with the RIO, and then Apple massacred everyone with the iPod. It could be someone has to come along and do it right, and yes, my money is on Apple.
Until that time comes, I'm saving my money. At least on wearables.