Wearable Computers Struggle to Go Mainstream: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-02-21

Wearable Computers Struggle to Go Mainstream: 10 Reasons Why

With Apple reportedly thinking about delivering a smart watch known as iWatch to the marketplace and Google already showing off its eyewear, Glass, the steady drumbeat of excitement surrounding wearable technology has grown louder.

Now more than ever, people are talking about wearable computer technology and how it might impact their lives, and companies operating in the space are starting to believe that their niche market might actually grow into something quite large.

But the fact that it takes Apple and Google to take an interest in making wearable computers says something about that market. The wearable technology market is small and relatively inconsequential when it’s compared to the rest of the immense mobile market that Apple competes in, including smartphones and tablets.

Despite the best efforts by companies large and small that are developing products in the market, a number of reasons have so far prevented them breaking out into the mainstream.

These are the factors that are holding back wearable technology.

1. Where are all the big companies?

The big issue with wearable technology is that, for the most part, major companies aren’t spending a significant amount of their time competing in the marketplace. Apple and Google are getting so much attention because of all the talk about the products they are developing. But before that happened, no one cared.

2. The ideas aren’t there yet

Looking around the wearable technology industry, it’s hard to find too many fully realized ideas that can appeal to the average person. Sure, there are watches and eyeglasses and jackets, but they’ve yet to demonstrate that they are compellingly useful. Until they do, the market won’t take off.

3. Mainstream devices are becoming more useful

The idea behind wearable technology is to make a person more productive and keep them connected to information. But there’s a problem. Mainstream products, like smartphones and tablets, are doing an awfully good job of that right now. Many customers wonder why they should wear a watch that displays their last email when they can simply pull their smartphone out of their pocket and do the same thing. So far, the wearable technology market hasn’t solved that problem.

4. Design leaves much to be desired

There’s yet to be one really good-looking wearable technology product that would make customers buy it and use it. The world is increasingly concerned with fashion and personal appearance. Right now, a bulky watch on a wrist or odd-looking glasses on the face aren’t exactly elegant fashion statements.

Wearable Computers Struggle to Go Mainstream: 10 Reasons Why

5. Lack of knowledge

Aside from Google and Apple, the wearable technology market is made up mainly of small companies, which don’t have the marketing dollars needed to convince the average consumer on the value of their products. That’s a major issue. Until wearable device makers have the resources to launch convincing marketing campaigns, the general lack of knowledge will hold it back.

6. Many devices aren’t being marketed as such

Speaking of marketing, an odd issue is developing in the wearable technology space: devices are being marketed as end-to-end solutions and not as something customers should wear. For example, the iPod Nano can be worn as a watch. But Apple has added that only as an extra feature. Folks get into the Nike+ craze, but so far, that company has balked at calling anything it does “wearable technology.” Oddly, “wearable technology” seem like bad words in today’s IT industry.

7. Some ideas go too far

The companies behind wearable technology seem to have no restraint or focus on the practical. Each year, they show up at the Consumer Electronic Show with ideas that go beyond the realm of practical. For example, would you really want to wear a fully tech-equipped vest or jacket? Would light-up clothes appeal to you? It’s time to take the whole wearable technology idea down to earth if the market is going to appeal to the mainstream.

8. Blame it on the jetpacks

Wearable technology is by no means new. In fact, the idea of it has been around for decades. The trouble is, it started on television shows where people wearing jetpacks on their backs flew off into the sky looking more like cyborgs than humans. The result? Wearable technology became a running joke. And now, the industry—which definitely has some legitimate produce designs—is having a hard time shaking off its past.

9. It caters to so-called “geeks”

Another problem is that the wearable products currently under development look as though they were designed with so-called “geeks” in mind. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it’s something that vendors will need to address if wearable technology is to hit the mainstream. Right now, tech-obsessed folks out there (like yours truly) are the only ones who really care about wearable technology. Everyone else sees it as something that that only confirmed “geeks” would wear and use. That needs to change.

10. An ecosystem hasn’t been built yet

If the recent success of products like smartphones and game consoles has taught us anything, it’s that if there’s any ecosystem built around a product, consumers will be more likely to buy it. For now, wearable technology relies on information shared with it from other products. That needs to change. Companies need to think more clearly about how their wearable products can be integrated with other services it owns to deliver the best overall experience.

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