Smartwatches need to be more useful in order to drive adoption: Gartner

Gartner survey highlights that the smartwatches and fitness trackers need to be a lot more useful for customers.

By: Tech Desk | Updated: December 9, 2016 8:47 am
Gartner, Gartner smartwatch survey, Gartner wearable survey, Gartner smartwatches report, Gartner smartwatches decline, Pebble, Pebble bought by Fitbit, Pebble smartwatches, Apple Watch, Apple Watch sales, smartwatches, gadgets, technology, technology news Gartner survey highlights that the smartwatches, fitness trackers need to be a lot more useful for customers. (Representational Image of Fitbit Blaze)

Yesterday, Pebble confirmed it was being acquired by Fitbit, and that it will be ending production of its smartwatches. Even as fans of the brand get ready to bid goodbye to the much-loved Pebble, a new survey from Gartner highlights the picture is not so rosy for the overall smartwatch, fitness tracker market.

Research firm Gartner says companies will need to do a lot more on the feature and design front to boost adoption of these devices. Gartner’s survey shows abandonment rate of smartwatches is 29 per cent, while it is 30 per cent for fitness trackers.

The reason is simple: “People do not find them useful, they get bored of them or they break,” says the survey. Also, the younger audience (less than 45 year old) is convinced the smartphone can already do what is needed. In such a case, the fitness tracker doesn’t seem like a must-buy device.

“Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner in a press statement. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate. To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification.”

Also read: Pebble’s demise shows wearables are still not that fit as an idea

Gartner’s survey was done with 9592 online respondents in Australia, US, and UK, in order to understand how consumers view this wearables segment (includes VR glasses as well).  Interestingly the survey says smartwatch adoption is still in the early adopter stage at 10 per cent, while fitness trackers are more mainstream (around 19 per cent). This explains why companies like Fitbit, Garmin, even Xiaomi have managed to do well in this segment. VR glasses have been used by 8 per cent of consumers in the survey.

Gartner’s survey also that US leads in smartwatch usage at 12 per cent, while UK is at 9 per cent and Australia at 7 per cent.  In fitness trackers, US leads at 23 per cent, while UK is at 15 per cent and Australia at 19 per cent.

Read more: Pebble now part of Fitbit: What it means for those who own the watch

“Continued growth in the adoption of smartwatches and fitness trackers will now be from mainstream consumers instead of early technology adopters,” added McIntyre. “The greatest hurdle for fitness tracker and smartwatch providers to overcome is the consumer perception that the devices do not offer a compelling enough value proposition.”

Some of the issues with regard to wearables that consumers highlighted are: Devices are too expensive, compared to the “perceived usefulness,” as well as the unappealing design of some of these smartwatches, fitness trackers.  In fact,  29 per cent of the respondents also found fitness trackers said they would not wear them simply because of the design.

Also the fancier bands and cases for fitness trackers designed by fashion brands are too expensive, points out Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst at Gartner, which means users don’t wish to buy them.

According to Gartner unknown brands will have a tough time in the market, and should “accept lower margins,” but need to provide an alternative that doesn’t compromise on quality and features.  The survey also shows smartwatch usage is higher among people who 44 years old and younger.

A recent report from IDC showed that the smartwatch and wearable market has taken a big hit. Apple Watch, which was driving the smartwatch market has seen a 71 per cent yearly dip in growth. For now, the future doesn’t look too bright for the smartwatch, wearables segment, which needs to evolve in order to bounce back.

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