Whither Smartwatches? Apple Brings Presence, but Not Direction
The launch and relative success of the Apple Watch has set a clear benchmark for the upper end of the smartwatch market in terms of functionality, but didn’t bring much that was new to the market. Other releases throughout 2015 generally expanded the devices’ aesthetics, rather than redefining their capabilities. Several vendors have released smartwatches that are much more limited compared to those released by the large mobile players.
Device convergence and diversification
Apple’s entry (and its price point) has signalled that luxury brands and smartwatches can mix, with a range of watch brands also producing smartwatches (with varying degrees of ‘smart’ functionality). This diversity fundamentally shows that there will be no ‘killer app’ for smartwatches, rather devices feature many different capabilities. Players wishing to succeed in this space need to be aware of this and either prepare for smaller scale, targeted releases or allow much more flexibility and customisation of their offerings by device users.
Juniper’s latest smartwatch research discusses how this has resulted in 2 seemingly contradictory trends in
convergence around notification and fitness tracking functions, as the clearest use of a smartwatch.
diversification of companion app features and watch aesthetics, to appeal to as many styles as possible.
But still no key smartwatch use case
The above trends are indicative of a market that still doesn’t know its overall direction, and nor do consumers. While smartwatches’ most common claim to a use case is to improve convenience and ‘free’ users from their smartphone, several users and reviewers note that this simply shifts the burden of notification to another location, rather than lessening the load.
This is also not something that many consumers seem to register as a need; in Juniper’s consumer wearables survey, nearly 30% of those not looking to buy a wearable in the next 6 months, said it was because they didn’t think they would use the device.