Smartwatches won't be a big hit over the holiday season, says Gartner

Smartwatches won't be a big hit over the holiday season, says Gartner

Summary: A combination of premium pricing and "unclear value proposition" will instead drive consumers towards tablets and fitness bands.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware

Now that smartphones and tablets have gone mainstream, hardware makers are on the lookout for the next big thing, and one of the markets that everyone is eyeing is smartwatches. But analyst firm Gartner is warning that, despite all the hype, they are unlikely to be featured on many consumers' holiday wish lists this year.

Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch
(Source: Samsung)

The problem, according to Gartner, is a combination of premium pricing and "unclear value proposition," and that this will instead drive consumers towards tablets and fitness bands.

"Samsung and other well-known vendors have recently entered the smart watch space, yet the products we have seen so far have been rather uninspiring in terms of design, available apps and features," said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner. "As a result, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will remain a companion to mobile phones at least through 2017, with less than one percent of premium phone users opting to replace their phone with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet."

"The convenience aspect of using a watch for interaction while leaving the larger-screen phone or tablet in the bag or pocket is something that users can relate to and probably recognize its value," said Ms. Zimmermann. "However, there are still several significant barriers to mainstream adoption, including low interest and awareness among consumers, poor design and price."

Take Samsung's Galaxy Gear as an example. Here is a companion device that connects to the Galaxy Note 3 phablet, but for $300 the value it adds is hazy at best. It is also restricted to working with only one device, limiting both its appeal and market.

Earlier this week a report claimed that Samsung has shipped 800,000 Galaxy Gear smartwatches.

And that $300 could be far better spent, for example, on another tablet.

My experience with wearable devices suggests that there are many tech-related issues that need addressing. Battery life, charging, usability, robustness, style, upgradeability, and reliability are all aspects that need to get better.

Take the Jawbone Up as an example. I wear one daily and find it relatively useful, but in real terms it is an overpriced, underfeatured "dumb" device that relies on a tethered custom charger (wireless would be easier), and has parts that fall off and are easily lost.

Smartwatches have a long way to go, and given that the smartphone has demonstrated that consumers prefer a convergence device over having to carry several different devices, they might be a tough sell.

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Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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  • "Dork" factor...

    Let's be honest; one of the real reasons that nobody will buy this is the fact you look like an total dork wearing it. It makes you look like you ride the little bus and your whereabouts are being monitored by a mental health facility.

    "What did I get for Christmas? Only the most awesomest gift of all time! It's a clunky, tacky watch that lets me do some things that my phone already does, but without the cool apps and easily readable screen."

    This thing is sure to get large numbers of high school kids beat up.

    Epic fail.
  • Smartwatches won't be a big hit over the holiday season, says Gartner

    The smart watch does not do anything better than current devices already do. There hasn't been much talk about them and no one is saying they need to run out and get one. Major companies will be writing off this technology.
  • Its fashion

    Nobody needs an extra thing to tell time, but watches remain as an accessory like a tie with a suit. However, having an extra appendage to your phone, also not needed. Both need to be able to make a good impression to sell. So far Rolex, etc is classier than Pebble, etc.
    D.J. 43
  • Smartwatches will be popular

    It won't happen this Christmas.

    But eventually, in the years ahead, smartwatches will become popular. The thing to remember is that their popularity won't come from telling the time.

    Smartwatches will eventually become popular for the monitoring of, and the identification of, the wearer. Smartwatch vendors should quickly make waterproof models, as that is the key.
    • That's what they said when Microsoft killed SPOT

      I'm not sure smart watches are tablets (i.e. an idea MS got to market first but did nothing until a company with taste made something people actually wanted). It may very well be that some day a smart watch will do well in the marketplace, but it won't be until a company like Apple shows companies like Samsung how to do it.

      There's a reason the Apple smart watch, like the Apple TV, have remained mere rumors. The products, as a class, are just not ready for prime time. That fact that Apple hasn't released one and the ones released by other companies are failures is NOT an accident.
  • It's a matter of asking the simple question: "Why?"

    Why would anyone spend $300 or so on a smartwatch, when for the same money, one could get a very nice and more practical present, like a smartphone or a tablet or even a laptop, or even a large screen TV?

    Smartwatches have no practical purpose right now, and perhaps never will. Wearable technology with very little practical use, should never cost more than $20, and perhaps that's the value space that smartwatches should be targeting.
  • That's obvious

    "However, there are still several significant barriers to mainstream adoption, including low interest and awareness among consumers, poor design and price."

    Sort of like the tablet market pre iPad? You had Samsung and other PC companies pushing these expensive things called tablet PCs for years, that no one cared for or noticed. Until Apple came in and show that it wasn't about how much technology and features you can cram into a device (Samsung) but how much unnecessary elements you can take out. To where the technology (form) takes a back seat to the function, usability. The user picks up an iPad and it just works.

    The smart watch market is just waiting for someone like Apple to step in and show how its really done. I look at this Galaxy Gear and I see something made just for a small subset of geeks (just like tablets pre iPad), not for the average everyday consumer. Fitbits and others have already shown there's interest for such wearable technology.
    • Yeah, sure, Apple will come to the rescue of the silly smartwatch platform,

      and they'll reinvent it, and with their huge marketing talent, they'll get people to believe that, they all need the stupid smartwatches, simply because, Apple put their magic touch on them.

      Get real!

      Apple got lucky with the iPHone, and their magic touch is nowhere to be seen since 2007, and the only thing they have done since then, is to re-introduce the iPHone each 6-8 months with a very tiny incremental "innovation", which through their magical marketing, people seem to not get enough. But, the real magic that occurred in 2007 is nowhere to be seen anymore. Every other manufacturer and tech company, is outdoing Apple; Apple is only marginally better at marketing. Apple could sell dog droppings as flavoring for ice-cream, and people would line up for miles waiting to be the first to get iCrapFlavored ice cream. ;)
      • Dog dropping

        BUt after a few months of them selling that dog dropping flavoring, people will begin to realize the Apple just doesn't taste the same anymore. And move on to other products. You see, the reason this company is #1 in customer satisfaction, number #1 in support, and have the most valuable brand is because they spent decades producing quality products that people LOVE.

        Their products are not for everyone obviously, you'll find many of the 1% like yourself here claiming that Apple got lucky with the iPhone (lol) and that they did not reinvent any other market since. But how come you're not expecting the same high standards from other company? Who else is reinventing markets every few years??
  • Why buy one

    Well I guess it would be for the same reason we all went mad over LED digital watches in the 1970s. Can't quite remember what those reasons were, though I seem to recall James Bond wearing one.