Amazon's New Wearables Store Nods to a Shift to Mainstream

NEWS ANALYSIS: The wearable devices market, from smartwatches to wearable cameras, has grown past niche and into the mainstream.

If more evidence were required to prove the whiplash pace at which the wearable device industry is growing, Amazon offered it April 29, with its launch of a Wearable Technology store. Though, to call it a store may be too reductionist, as what Amazon offers is a full education for shoppers, complete with explanatory videos and buyer's guides.

Amazon Wearable Technology is broken down into several sections: New & Featured Products; Featured Brand; Editor's Corner and Coming Soon. Shoppers are encouraged to "explore" devices broken down into five segments: fitness and wellness; health care; wearable cameras; smartwatches; and family, kids and pets.

While wearable technologies have been on offer for more than a decade, Amazon points out that "rapid innovation" has been taking place of late, and customers are increasingly coming to Amazon to learn about and shop for these devices.

"We're thrilled to bring our customers a store with the largest selection and great prices that help eliminate the guesswork when deciding which wearable devices best fit their needs—whether that is tracking activity, staying connected through smart watches or capturing their next adventure with wearable camera," John Nemeth, director or Wireless and Mobile Electronics at Amazon, said in a statement.

The New & Featured section includes watches and necklaces from Misfit Wearables that can track steps but also sleep patterns and data around activities such as swimming, cycling, and playing soccer or tennis.

In Coming Soon, shoppers can learn about Nymi, a wrist band that can provide authentication between its wearer and everything from a car to a tablet and a mobile payment system, and the Narrative Clip, a clip-on camera that unrelentingly snaps a photo every 30 seconds, so users can "remember every moment." (Is that really a goal now? Have we moved past hoping to just hold on to the best parts?)

In a Learning Center, Amazon offers explanations and considerations. If you're buying a smartwatch, for example, you'll want to know whether it's compatible with your phone, or how it differs from an activity tracker—another category with its own guide.

"It's a smart move, especially from the fitness perspective," Jack Narcotta, an analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR), told eWEEK.

"With advancements in technology allowing the devices to be smaller and more 'wearable' than ever, the appeal of a wristband or watch that tracks movement for casual users, or records and analyzes biometrics to deep, deep levels (for marathoners or triathletes) is growing quickly," Narcotta added. "We see it with vendors like Samsung and, likely, Apple, but the market's open to other vendors, too, like Fitbit and Jawbone."

Beyond Niche

The wearables market has advanced considerably over the last year, and research firm IDC expects that 2014 sales will reach 19 million units, tripling 2013's total. And that's just the beginning. By 2018, the firm expects the global wearables market to reach nearly 112 million units, showing a compound annual growth rate of 78 percent.

Consumer education is key to growth, IDC said in an April report, and the market will mature as "users better understand and accept the value proposition, and vendors refine their offers." It added that the "runway for smart wearables is long" and millions of units won't begin shipping until 2016.

Might Amazon—which now makes tablets and TV set-top boxes and is rumored to be preparing a smartphone—have plans to contribute its own wearable to its new store?

"I would say never say never," Matt Wilkins, director of tablets and wearables at Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK. "You simply have to look at the speculation regarding an Amazon smartphone being in the works, and it is not hard to get to there having a wearable device also in the works."

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