Abandoning Wearables

A report is out today suggesting that up to 1/3 of wearable computing users are abandoning the devices.

That observation is strengthened by research from Endeavour Partners in the US, which found that one-third of American consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months. What’s more, while one in 10 American adults own some form of activity tracker, half of them no longer use it.

We are still in the early phase of wearables and this data needs to be taken with that perspective, there is a lot of experimentation necessary to find the right mix of function, fashion, and utility. Samsung, in particular, has demonstrated a tendency to release devices that are intended to demonstrate a market opportunity while continuing to iterate the design to later maximize on it. This is something that should be encouraged.

My own experience with a Fitbix Flex fitness tracker is in line with the research covered above. I initially embraced the device and was diligent about interacting with it, then after about 3 months the silicone band broke and replacing it didn’t seem like a priority. I wasn’t getting a lot of utility out of the Fitbit, it does a couple of things (and the sleep function clearly doesn’t work well) and it just didn’t add anything to my life so putting it on the shelf was an easy decision. The other challenge is that it isn’t extensible, Fitbit hasn’t provided a third party market for apps that do anything more than what Fitbit provides itself… utility is a function of what the device itself does along with what third parties support.

xl_samsung-galaxy-gear-phoneThe Samsung Gear is a different example and having talked with people who have had it the issue that comes up is that the first gen device was a novelty more than anything else, and having something tethered to your smartphone is really only as good as the reliability of the connection. The Gear seems plagued with bluetooth connectivity problems that make it unreliable in this regard.

google-wearableThis is a fast evolving market and I am optimistic about where it is going, especially in light of recent announcements from Google and others that demonstrate devices that are significantly improved over previous generations. Curved displays, improved batteries, and richer development environments point to a better future for wearables.