Who Really Wants a Smart Watch?

July 9, 2014

Posted by: IoT global network

Robin Duke-Woolley

Robin Duke-Woolley, Beecham Research

There is a lot of discussion going on right now about when the next smart watch will appear. Samsung is expected to launch their Galaxy Gear smart watch at the IFA show in Berlin next week. The apparent aim of doing this is to trounce Apple, who may or may not launch their rumoured iWatch at their own event on September 10 in San Francisco.

In view of this and some pretty optimistic forecasts that have been thrown together recently, it is worth exploring the question – who really wants a smart watch?

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly apparent that use of wrist watches is declining – especially in the under 30 age group – in that less people are wearing them. If you use a watch just for telling the time, then your mobile phone is often just as handy and if you take your phone everywhere, why bother to wear a watch?

Females are much less likely to wear a watch than males. When they do, it is often more of a fashion accessory and the form factor is often extremely important – it must generally be small and stylish, or look like a piece of jewellery. At the same time, ownership of smartphones among females is shooting up compared with that of males – to the point where in some countries like the UK there is now a higher percentage of female ownership of smartphones than male ownership.

Even among males, watches appear to be worn less these days than was the case even a few years ago. For those that do, style is also increasingly important. While some want a big and chunky watch, others want something more refined and perhaps less feature rich. In other words, people want to choose what they wear and their choices are very different.

Against this background, the smart watch is aiming to disrupt the watch market by adding a  lot of new features and apps. Will this be sufficient to change what people want to wear on their wrists though? How different will they look? Will everyone suddenly want to wear basically the same thing or will they want to choose between many different style formats?  If these products are physically quite large, possibly with wide straps, how appealing will they be to the large majority of the target buyers?

Beecham Research’s new report on Wearable Technology (Wearable Technology: Towards Function with Style – follow this link for more details) explores these issues using a new methodology of fashion profiles – 35 of them. In this market, it is not just a question of early technology adopters and late adopters. It is all about aspiration and style, who wants to wear what and why. Smart watches are aiming to introduce many new features and applications under the headings of communication, fitness, personal security, retail, wellness and others. Important though these undoubtedly are, unless these new products address the aspirational and style needs of their target users they are unlikely to actually be worn. For the Wearable Technology market to really take off, it is not in fact the technology that will make the sale. It is how it looks and the different options available to change that appearance that will really count.