Epson, a company known more for its printers than for anything else, today announced that it is releasing two smartwatches called Pulsense and Runsense in the coming months. (Pulsense will debut in the United States and United Kingdom this month, and Runsense will come later.)
This kind of announcement makes the news of Swatch’s decision to make a smartwatch without the aid of a tech company, or the disinterest with which people regard many wearable products, even clearer. It’s full of buzzwords. It’s advertising products that look like they were designed in the ’90s. It’s a new product from a printer company, and no one really likes printer companies.
This is what smartwatches have come to. Just last year it seemed like everyone was frothing at the mouth to get their hands on a wearable product — or to get a wearable product onto their wrists, at least — and leave smartphones behind. Now we’re being sold devices made by Epson. If this evolution didn’t require hundreds of millions of dollars I’d swear we were being punked.
Wearables already face an uphill battle. People think they’re too expensive, young people don’t wear watches, and many of the products available aren’t all that exciting. (There’s a reason why Samsung couldn’t convince people to keep a smartwatch it gave ’em for free with a new phone.) As Pando’s David Holmes wrote after students told Chegg how they felt about many wearables,
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.”
Companies like Swatch have a chance of introducing wearables that people might actually want to wear, and companies like Samsung are improving their smartwatches to the point where it might actually be worth considering owning one. But that doesn’t mean that the market should be flooded with me-too devices from every tech or hardware company waiting to hop onto the bandwagon.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]