Wearable tech is the big thing for 2014, or so the pundits tell us. The jury is still out.
Right now the stuff that’s doing well in the market are wrist bracelets that provide a variety of health and exercise related functions. I’ve got the Nike Fuelband, a gift from a friend, I wore it for about a month and since then it’s been gathering dust. Jawbone and other companies are doing okay in this space as well.
Of course there’s Google Glass, which right now costs US$1,500 and is only available in very small quantities to an invited audience. It will become more widely available at a more reasonable price.
And there’s smart watches. The most successful company in this space so far has been Pebble. They launched a couple of years ago via Kickstarter with a $149 watch that could link to either an iOS or an Android device via Bluetooth. The screen is a backlit eInk screen and it runs several apps. This year they’ve released the new Pebble Steel at $249. It’s a fine looking watch, at least as far as smartwatches go, and I was momentarily tempted to order one.
The thing that stopped me is that it’s $100 more for what is now two year old technology – they updated the case and the wristband but the tech inside the case is still the same.
The most disastrous smart watch launch to date has probably been the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It only pairs with Samsung devices – but considering that Samsung phones are outselling just about everything else, the potential audience is wide enough. However version one received almost universally horrible reviews and reportedly returns were running well over 30%.
Samsung has just announced version two, and interestingly enough it will no longer be an Android device.
It will use something called Tizen, a new Linux open source OS backed by Samsung and Intel. (Samsung is also expected to announce its newest flagship phone, the Galaxy 5, this week.)
Of course the 800 pound gorilla in the room is still Apple, which is expected to announce their own watch at some point this year. It seems like anyone who has Photoshop is working overtime to create images of what the iWatch might look like.
I have both an iPhone 5s and a Samsung Galaxy S4. I still prefer my iPhone by a wide margin. That’s the one I use all day long. The Samsung mostly sits in my pocket, only getting pulled out for business related use and left plugged in at home on the weekends.
So I will wait and see what Apple comes out with. The way I figure it, I don’t need all the apps I’ve already got on my phone on a smaller screen on my wrist that I probaby won’t be able to read without glasses. But the extra notification of incoming calls and texts would be useful. I keep my phone on silent most of the time and very often won’t notice it go off even though it’s in my pants pocket as I’m walking down the street.
The wrist watch is another business that has probably been disrupted by smart phones. The luxury watch business is doing fine, and probably always will. But a lot of people around the world who will never buy a Rolex are asking why they should wear something around their wrist when there’s already a clock on the phone that’s always in their pocket (or in their hands).
For now, I’m sticking with my Casio G Shock.