How many people do you know with wearable tech? Now subtract everyone who’s wearing a FitBit or a smartwatch. Anyone left? Aside from the three people (in the world) who bought Google Glass, you’ll probably struggle to find anyone who uses wearable tech for anything other than counting their steps or checking their invoices and bills on their Apple Watch. But there hasn’t been a piece of wearable tech that’s fully disrupted the market place. Companies have the ability to build it, so what’s stopping them?
The main barrier for many people is the cost. If you’re looking for more functionality than step and heart rate counting, it’s going to cost you. In fact, as with Google Glass, owning the highest end of wearable tech is seen as a status symbol, one that’s actually a turnoff to a lot of people. As fashion trends tend toward the “I’m not even trying”, especially with millennials, a piece of wearable tech is the ultimate try.
As we explore the various applications of wearable tech – such as smartchips embedded in clothing, or rings that can replace our current watches – we’ll see the prices drop. This will then take wearable from an elite status symbol to an everyday must-have. We’ve seen a similar evolution with Apple products. Once upon a time you would pay $1,000 extra just to have a computer in neon blue, now you buy an iPhone as much for the beautiful functionality as the design.
It’s not fashionable, or comfortable
Wearable tech hasn’t quite nailed the “wearable” piece of the puzzle. Fitbit has collaborated with Tory Burch to take the functional, yet aesthetically unappealing rubber bands and turned them into high end bracelets. Apple Watch has attempted this in their addition of Rose Gold. But no one has been able to merge the worlds of fashion and technology to create a piece you would buy just as much for the look as for the functionality.
The first company to collaborate with a fashion house in a meaningful way is going to make a killing. While creating something that looks good, they’re also going to get a boost from the credibility of the designers. While technology can set trends that matter inside your device’s, fashion designers set the trends for what people are willing to put on their bodies.
They don’t provide you with anything your phone can’t do
Even fitness trackers can do little more than a basic step counting app on your phone. That is changing with the addition of heart rate monitors, but if you’re looking for steps and calories your phone can do that. As for smartwatches, their main use is for when you don’t want to reach for your phone. Or you’re trying to check your messages on the sly in a meeting. So far they haven’t demonstrated a “must have” reason for you to own them. And with smartwatches, you actually need your phone to get the most out of their functionality.
We need a significant jump in our technology to build wearables that provide a value that doesn’t tie to your phone. Even chips embedded in clothing usually come with a phone app to access their data. For a piece of wearable tech to really take off, it has to be independent or provide so much value that it’s worth the two step process of wearing it and using your phone to access it.
It doesn’t make your life more convenient
While a lot of the wearable technology we have is cool, none of it actually helps you significantly in your day-to-day life. Sure, knowing how many steps you took is interesting, but it’s not imperative. Glancing down at your watch to check a text message may save you a few seconds, but it won’t change your day. So far wearables have tended toward the flashy and not the functional. While they’re all nice to haves, none of them have solved a significant problem.
If a piece of technology comes out that overwhelming changes how you do something, like something that reads my mind and answers hundreds of emails for me on command, it will take off, regardless of if it looks good. Even Google Glass, which was undeniably cool and ahead of its time, didn’t solve any problems. Which is why it was held back by price and the fact that it just made you look plain ridiculous.
Wearables are on the brink of becoming mainstream, but they have a few basic problems to solve. They’re currently the iMac from 1998. But soon they could be the iPhone. A piece of tech that’s integral to how you live your life.
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