Is time running out on smartwatches?

Discussion
Photo: Fossil
Oct 25, 2016
George Anderson

If you haven’t noticed many people wearing smartwatches, there’s a good reason for that. Shipments of the wearable devices fell 51.6 percent in the third quarter year-over-year, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

In its report, IDC pointed to some mitigating factors. The first Apple Watches were widely available during the whole of the third quarter in 2015 while the newest version of the device was only released with a couple of weeks left in October this year. Two other companies expected to release smart watches — Google and Samsung — have yet to do so. Google has pulled back on Android Wear 2.0 and Samsung has not yet debuted the Gear3, which it announced last month.

“It has also become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity. However, moving forward, differentiating the experience of a smartwatch from the smartphone will be key and we’re starting to see early signs of this as cellular integration is rising and as the commercial audience begins to pilot these devices.”

Apple, which is the leader in smartwatches worldwide with a 70.2 percent share, saw its shipments fall 71.6 percent in the third quarter.

Samsung, which is second with a 6.4 percent share, saw shipments of its Gear2 increase nine percent.

Garmin, which has focused entirely on fitness and health with its devices, saw shipments climb 324.2 percent during the quarter. The company is currently fifth among smartwatch makers with a 2.3 percent share.

In related news, Fossil launched 40 new Q smartwatch hybrids across brands, including Armani, Diesel, Kate Spade and Michael Kors, in addition to its namesake brand. The devices are designed to look just like traditional watches. To open the smart portion of the watch requires an app, which allows the wearer access to functions (depending on the model), such as receiving notifications, counting steps, tracking sleep, controlling music and taking a photo.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see IDC’s shipments report as a blip on the screen for smartwatches or an omen of rougher times ahead? What will it take for smartwatches to become widely popular among U.S. consumers?

Braintrust
"The jump in the use of smartwatches and gadgets for measuring health and well-being points the way the consumer is going."
"Sometimes the problem is also the solution. For me smartwatches are just too much work."
"I am way past the Millennial generation but I love my smartwatch, not because it does a lot of things well but because it doesn’t..."

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10 Comments on "Is time running out on smartwatches?"

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Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Remember the Amazon Fire smartphone and application called “Firefly” from less than two years ago? I thought not. So it seems the smartwatch wasn’t the Swiss Army Knife either. It seems like there are too many similar products already filling the need. However, the jump in the use of smartwatches and gadgets for measuring health and well-being points the way the consumer is going.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

The broader question here around smartwatches and gadgets is: will wearables work? Given the potential of the technology and the significant resources behind improving it, I don’t think anyone sees it going away. Of course, the experience and value need to be improved and they will be over time. This is another case of consumer driven innovation that will eventually require retailers to keep up — it’s just a question of how quickly consumer adoption reaches critical mass.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Sometimes the problem is also the solution. For me smartwatches are just too much work. 90 percent of the time I just want to know what time it is. And for many of us who are closet seniors, you just can’t read the damn things.

Jitesh Ubrani is right on the money: make the things provide a simple solution to a single problem.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
My niece lives by her smartwatch because her scheduling app helps her keep a baby and a toddler fed, napping and healthy. Beyond that, I’ve been surprised how little has been written about the human weaknesses of smartwatches. In a business meeting, I don’t want to wear my calendar, text messages and incoming phone calls on my wrist for all to see. And that’s a complete show stopper that suggests they have a niche — but only a niche. The tech industry Is desperate to sell a sci-if future but people don’t want if it doesn’t deliver value. And so… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Put me in the, “omen of rougher times ahead,” cadre. Assuming you have a phone and maybe a FitBit, why do you need a watch for anything other than a fashion statement? And, if the watch is functioning as an accessory, is it really going to be a smartwatch? It’s really a case of redundant capability. People just don’t need to be encumbered with multiple devices that do the same thing.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust
I am way past the Millennial generation but I love my smartwatch, not because it does a lot of things well but because it doesn’t — and that is the problem. Yes it tells time. But not in the sunlight. Yes it measures exercise, but only some of them and only some of the effort. It fails at measuring sleep. In reality it is only so good. So why do I love it? Because it beeps. It can wake me up, it can tell me I have an appointment and it can tell me I have five minutes until my… Read more »
Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

While it may not seem like it, the smartwatch is still in the development stage. There are many features that make this wearable a potential must-have. It’s not just about being cool and having a gadget. Beyond email, messaging — and of course telling time — there will be many ways to use this phone the public hasn’t even thought about. The tie to medical is huge, and that is just one feature/benefit. It still has tremendous growth opportunity that we will see in the next few years.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

It’s still early in the wearables cycle. More functionality, more integration with phones, more life-relevance, more fashion will all be drivers.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Perhaps there really IS a limit to miniaturization (at least until we start making smaller people). A screen little bigger than your fingernail is going to have limited usefulness, no matter how much functionality you pack behind it.

Prognosis: The 8-track of the 2010s.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

I just found the watch/recorder/MP3 player I bought many years ago in my desk drawer where it was relegated when I had to pull out the instruction sheet most times when I used it. Simplicity in use is key and always will will be where enabling technologies are concerned … the juice has got to be worth the squeeze.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The jump in the use of smartwatches and gadgets for measuring health and well-being points the way the consumer is going."
"Sometimes the problem is also the solution. For me smartwatches are just too much work."
"I am way past the Millennial generation but I love my smartwatch, not because it does a lot of things well but because it doesn’t..."

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