Despite $458 million in venture investment last year and a ton of ink spilled over the wearables “phenomenon,” Pando and others have reportedly extensively on consumers’ waning or nonexistent interest in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other digital fashion statements.
In April, the Guardian reported that many who received Samsung’s highly anticipated Galaxy Gear smartwatch with their most recent smartphone purchase were selling them off on eBay just months later. Meanwhile, basic, relatively cheap activity trackers still make up 97 percent of the market, and 80 percent of people put down these devices after only six months, according to digital health fund Rock Health. Even a giant brand like Nike was unable to keep its FuelBand product line afloat, though as James Robinson writes at Pando that’s probably because the device just wasn’t very good.
Now we have more bad news for the wearable market, and it comes via those Snapchatting stewards of our future: the youngs.
According to a survey of 1,000 college students conducted by the online textbook startup Chegg, 67 percent of them had never even heard the term, “wearables.” 18 percent own a wearable, but these are largely cheap activity trackers like Fitbits. Only 14 percent say they would pay more than $150 for a wearable, and 35 percent say they aren’t even remotely interested in Apple’s iWatch — which is pretty high considering the fanaticism usually reserved for new Apple products. Based on these findings, we may still be a long way from reaching the wearables market’s “iPhone moment.”
Countering all this youthful apathy toward wearables is that, as Robinson notes, the underlying technology is getting cheaper and more powerful, and investment in the space shows little sign of slowing down. But he also adds that the market is so “segregated, split across activity trackers, smart watches, clothes, patches, and ingestibles, promising to do everything from monitor heart rate and sleep to posture and muscle activity,” that it’s struggling to achieve broad market appeal beyond fitness dabblers.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, when was the last time you saw a young person wearing a watch?
[illustration by Brad Jonas]