Three hurdles wearables must overcome

Summary:Everywhere you turn you are hearing about wearables, specifically smartwatches. While they seem poised to take off, there are some big obstacles in the way.

Google recently launched Android Wear accompanied by three smartwatches by partners. They look different but, due to the version of Android onboard, they all work pretty much the same.

Smartwatches
Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

With the Android folks behind them, the thought is that wearables, especially smartwatches, are ready to take off. That may be a pipe dream due to three hurdles that stand in the way.

Many don't wear watches anymore

One unexpected casualty of the smartphone craze is the watch. Nearly everyone wore a watch not that long ago, but that changed when most folks got a phone.

"I wish I had a big gadget strapped to my wrist to check the weather/ email/ Facebook." A statement made by no one, ever.

Look around and you'll notice that the wrists of a lot of folks are unadorned by a watch of any kind. Gone are the days of fancy watches that used to be a status symbol.

When many folks want to know the time, more often than not they look at the smartphone. Most phones have the time right on the lock screen so they don't even need to be unlocked. A simple glance at the screen and you know what time it is. No need for a watch. A smartwatch is unlikely to change this behavior.

They don't do anything new

The new smartwatches by LG, Samsung, and Motorola look pretty useful with the Android Wear stuff that Google built. Geeks in particular like the thought of glancing at the watch and seeing pertinent information without asking for it.

The rest of the world won't be that impressed, largely because these watches don't do anything new. The information that appears on the tiny watch screen is already there on the smartphone. Until someone comes up with a cool new function, it's not likely that consumers are going to want one of these watches.

They don't need or want yet another screen, a tiny one at that, to view the information they already have on their phone. This is especially true since they have already given up wearing a watch. There's no reason to change their habits when it doesn't gain them new functionality.

Special Feature

Wearables: Fit For Business?

The explosion of interest in wearable computing is one of tech's fastest rising trends. While big moves from Google, Apple, and Samsung will likely attract a lot of attention, we're going to examine the broader potential that wearables hold for driving innovation in business.

Nobody wants them

Probably the biggest obstacle to wearable success is that they solve no consumer problem. They are a solution looking for a problem, and that scenario rarely results in success.

"I wish I had a big gadget strapped to my wrist to check the weather/ email/ Facebook." A statement made by no one, ever.

It's going to be hard to convince a lot of people that even though it doesn't do anything new and they don't wear watches anymore, that they want a smartwatch. It doesn't help that they are going to be big, clunky, and downright ugly for the foreseeable future.

Geeks aside, consumers don't want the newest gadget just because it's cool. It has to provide utility they can easily see, in a form they would like others to see them wear. That's not the description of any smartwatch to date. So they'll just keep their smartphone close for doing the same things that shiny watch they see on TV can do.

See related:

Topics: Mobility, Android, Samsung

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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