Customers who preordered the Apple Watch will be sporting this hot new accessory as soon as it arrives in their mailboxes, which is expected over the next few months, and buzz about the watch seems to be at a peak. The new watch is heralded as “more than just another screen.” It lets users, merely by holding up their wrists, do the things they can already do on a smartphone: take calls, check email, summon Siri, track fitness goals, and stay in touch with social networks. They can also tap into more advanced features like car key replacement, remote control functions, and digital touch, the last a less obviously useful feature that lets you draw on the face of the watch and transmit it, tap signals, and make calls to another watch. Some comment on the watch’s elegant design; others on its price. For US$17,000 you can get an 18-karat-gold edition, whereas the basic version starts at $349. The watch’s initial production run sold out before it was launched, with preorders topping 1.2 million. That’s in spite of the many reviewers who say the watch is still buggy — with especially clunky third-party app functionality.
The media frenzy over the Apple Watch and what it can and can’t do got me thinking about wearable technology in general — and about how surprisingly few great multimedia presentations have been created on what is supposed to be a life-changing next big thing. By some estimates, the global wearables market will be worth $11.61 billion by 2020, and wearable tech will “become the norm” by 2025. Multimedia about wearables, though, tends to feature talking heads and the occasional cheeky fashion show, but little information about how we’re actually going to be using wearables or whether we even want them. That brings me to one site that’s a good read for anyone trying to sort the reality from the hype: a simple but well-designed infographic from Niftyreads.com that finds mainstream acceptance of wearables has been slower than expected. Chock-full of wearable tech stats, the infographic reports on surveys of U.S. consumers, who are so far lukewarm about smart watches (only 40 percent of respondents say they want to buy one), and cool toward other wearables, like Google Glass. It’s also a good example of how market intelligence can give you a pertinent view of the future of technology in general.
What the graphic tells us is that health and fitness platforms, in particular, might do well to build up their visual content; more than 80 percent of consumers view improvements in eating, exercise, and healthcare as key benefits of wearable technology. And a host of cool healthcare gadgets are already paving the way for more innovation in the industry — such as the breast-cancer detecting bra, digital bandage, and tattoo fitness sensor (don’t worry — it’s only a temporary tattoo). That might explain why there are already at least 37 health and fitness-related apps available for the Apple Watch. The only thing consumers seem reluctant to embrace in this category is medical devices that transmit data, and the graphic doesn’t tell us why. Is it out of fear of security breaches? In any case, only 38 percent expressed interest in owning these medical gadgets.
I’ll have to keep an eye on Web stats to see if wearables gain more fans as people grow accustomed to having smartphones strapped to their wrists. I haven’t ordered a watch, but I admit to being a confirmed Fitbit addict, at least for the moment.