An estimated 8.9 million smart watches are expected to ship in 2014, and that number is expected to reach 214 million in 2018. While these projections are impressive, wearables so far haven’t generated the level of excitement of, say, the iPhone and iPad.
So far, no one is quite sure what combination of features and design will make wearables as indispensable as the smartphone has become.
Not only will wearables have to combine design and function in some greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts way, it will have to become embedded in user routines. People only have so much attention to give away, and there are already many devices clamoring for it. Here are some of the reasons wearables haven’t yet become as culturally relevant as tablets and smartphones.
As one part of the burgeoning internet of things (IoT), wearables will send and receive information wirelessly, and that raises security issues. Will smart devices be inviting for hackers? The development of security standards for the IoT is still in its earliest phases. At the same time, if nobody moved forward with technology until security was locked down, there would probably be no forward progress. Individuals will have to decide that benefits outweigh security risks before they adopt wearables.
Why do wearables end up on eBay? People don’t want to wear something all day that doesn’t look and feel nice. If wearables are all about function, with little attention paid to form, they’re going to end up in the dustbin of history quickly. Even before people understand the function of a piece of wearable tech, they have to be attracted to it. Desire has to be factored into design as much as technology does.
Where Smartwatches Have Missed the Mark
The battery life of many smartwatches has been a huge detractor. Another detractor is screen size. While it may seem cool to have a watch that displays emails, trying to actually read them is another matter. Couple this with the fact that some early watches were unable to render HTML, and you have an email feature that is fairly useless. Fortunately some designers are starting from the design end and collaborating with the tech designers to produce more appealing designs.
Smartwatch designs still have a ways to go aesthetically.
Dropping Sensor Prices Matter
Price is certainly a factor now, but the cost of the sensors these devices use is dropping quickly, and as prices drop, wearables will become more realistic for mass marketing. Moreover, the price of prototyping is dropping, so tech designers will have an easier time creating new designs, some of which are bound to hit the sweet spot where design and function both have mass appeal.
Google Glass and Its Detractors
People make fun of and openly deride Google Glass, despite very loyal users. Some people believe this is mostly a “haves vs. have-nots” issue, because the Google Glass is worn where everyone can see it, broadcasting that they are already part of the future (and you’re not). Wearing a Google Glass demonstrates that you have the cash to buy an expensive tech gadget, if nothing else.
But you have to remember that when cameras first came out on phones, there was push-back too. When walking down the street were you going to end up in someone’s YouTube video by happenstance? And then, people got used to them, and nobody really thinks about cameras on phones anymore. Intrusion acceptance has happened before and is likely to happen again.
Could an Apple iWatch Change Everything?
The rumored iWatch could make its debut in September or October, possibly during Apple’s September 9 iPhone 6 event. But very few concrete details are known. The device is believed to contain many health and fitness sensors, and may offer metrics like calorie consumption and blood oxygen levels. Apple has already begun trademarking “iWatch” in a number of countries too.
Will Apple be the company to get it right? It’s hard to argue with history, considering that “iPhone,” “iPad,” and “iPod” all rapidly became household names. Whether Apple can conquer design, function, and competition for user attention successfully in this case remains to be seen.
When it comes to wearables, we’re still waiting for the gadget that becomes indispensable. That device will have to reach a delicate balance among style, function, and cost. Tech is remarkable and available, and beautiful wearable design has been around forever in the form of jewelry and watches. When these two “parents” produce the perfect offspring, wearables will likely become as ubiquitous as smartphones.
You probably don’t have to worry (yet) about wearables bringing another tsunami of tech into your organization the way BYOD has. But if you are using Samanage for your IT asset management and IT service desk, you’ll be better equipped to help your organization take on new technology when it inevitably arrives.