10 Factors That Will Determine Wearable Device Success

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-04-22 Email Print this article Print

The wearable device market is set for serious growth in the coming years. Last year, Juniper Research reported that wearable technology spending worldwide would hit $1.4 billion in 2013 and jump to $19 billion by 2018. That was followed by another study from research firm IDC from earlier this year, which showed wearable device shipments jumping to 111.9 million by 2018. By the end of 2014, that study claimed, manufacturers will ship more than 19 million wearable devices worldwide. But other industry pundits have thrown cold water on these predictions that wearable device sales will grow that fast. This view gained credence when a report recently suggested that Nike was ditching its FuelBand wearable business due to poor market performance. Nike quickly denied it wasn't planning such a move, but subsequent reports from unidentified sources seem to stand in direct opposition to the sports equipment maker's claims. Whatever the case, the fact that Nike, one of the first companies to jump on the wearables bandwagon, might be thinking of leaving the space suggests that wearables won't be the huge sales success some of the market researchers are predicting. This eWEEK slide show will look at what it will take to make these devices a success.

  • 10 Factors That Will Determine Wearable Device Success

    By Don Reisinger
    10 Factors That Will Determine Wearable Device Success
  • Wearable Devices Need to Be Smarter

    Right now, it's hard to find too many "smart" wearable devices. Sure, there are products that can monitor fitness levels and feature some smartphone-like functionality, but we're still waiting on products that can handle boatloads of apps, have the ability to keep users informed wherever they go and can replace the smartphones in our pockets, if we so desire. Smarter wearable devices—perhaps like Google Glass—will be extremely important to the future of the market.
    Wearable Devices Need to Be Smarter
  • They Must Have Real-World Practicality

    It's hard to say right now how many wearable devices are truly applicable to the average person's life. Products like the Nike FuelBand can help with fitness-tracking, but what will Google Glass do that so many other products can't already? Wearable device makers need not only to attract customers; they need to prove that the products they're offering are actually going to come in handy in their daily lives.
    They Must Have Real-World Practicality
  • Wearables Need the Backing of Big Companies

    The companies succeeding right now in wearables are largely those that are well-known and have billions of dollars in cash to spend on that sector of the technology industry. While small companies, such as Pebble, have been able to attract some attention, it's the major companies, like Google, Samsung, Sony and Apple that are most likely to succeed over time.
    Wearables Need the Backing of Big Companies
  • Wearables Must Have Strong Software Support

    The big issue standing in the way of broad wearable device adoption is software integration. Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2 comes with Tizen, an open-source operating system that has yet to get off the ground. The company plans an Android model later this year. Other products come with built-in operating systems that fall short for one reason or another. Wearable devices need to have operating systems that are both well understood among consumers and work well. Without either element, wearables will be doomed.
    Wearables Must Have Strong Software Support
  • Wearables Must Integrate With Other Devices

    Samsung is perhaps the biggest culprit in this example, but there are certainly others: Walled gardens have been established in the wearable space that should be broken down if the sector is to see rapid success in the coming years. Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2, for example, works with Samsung handsets. In order for wearables to be successful, they need to work with any and all products we already carry around. There is simply no other option.
    Wearables Must Integrate With Other Devices
  • Third-Party Developer Support Is Essential

    The number of third-party apps available on wearable products right now is somewhat slim. With that in mind, it's important that companies building wearable tech attract developers to their products. From location-based apps to even games, third-party programs are a necessary piece of the puzzle for any company trying to succeed in wearables.
    Third-Party Developer Support Is Essential
  • Cultural Acceptance Is Important

    Wearable technology cannot succeed without acceptance within contemporary culture. People need to feel comfortable wearing their Galaxy Gear 2, iWatch or Google Glass around town. If consumers feel that it's not culturally "cool" to wear the products, wearables will fail. It's important not to discount the importance of culture in the success or failure of wearables.
    Cultural Acceptance Is Important
  • Wearable Must Deliver Value

    There must be a means to an end with wearables. If it's a fitness-tracker people are buying, they should be able to create measurable goals and reach them. If consumers are going after eyeglasses that maximize productivity, they should do that. In many cases, wearables right now are a bit more form than function. And that needs to change.
    Wearable Must Deliver Value
  • Wearables Need to Be Durable

    If consumers are going to spend a significant amount of money on wearable devices, they better last long enough. In the smartphone space, planned obsolescence is what helps Apple and others boost revenue. In the wearable space, watches, eyewear and fitness trackers need to be able to last for years. Consumers don't want to buy a new wearable device every year just because Apple says so; they want to have products that last. Device makers, who have been unwilling to provide such products for fear of losing revenue, need to accept that.
    Wearables Need to Be Durable
  • Most of All, They Must Be Affordable

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly for many consumers, is affordability. Wearables need to be able to hit the price point in order to be successful. Recently, Google opened up sales on its Glass eyewear for a single day and quickly sold out, despite the $1,500 price tag. However, the people buying that eyewear were early adopters, not the regular consumer. And it seems like a hard sell for Google to get $1,500 out of those who ware already reluctant to spend hundreds on smartphones and tablets. Regardless of the device in question, one thing must remain constant: Wearables must be affordable.
    Most of All, They Must Be Affordable
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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