2016 prediction: Demise of the wearable?

Wearables are up almost 200% in Q3 2015. Are they the next big thing, or are the sales inflated by price slashing for the holiday shopping season?

fitbit office

Those poo-pooing wearables as a flash-in-the-pan might want to take a glance at some staggering numbers released earlier this month that indicate huge growth in the sector.

"Total shipment volume for the quarter came to 21.0 million units, up 197.6% from the 7.1 million units shipped in 3Q 2014," IDC said in a press release for the report. IDC provides market intelligence for the tech industry and has the same parent company, IDG, as Network World.


However, despite these bullish numbers, nay-sayers abound. And with a bit of research, it's hard not to acknowledge that they may have a point.

"Activity trackers and smartwatches are going to have to get a lot better to be more than a niche product," British newspaper the Telegraph said at the end of November.

That report said it saw name-brand activity trackers discounted by 40% for Black Friday in the UK.

Garmin's GPS watches were discounted significantly, as was the Pebble Smartwatch, which was half-off.

Price drops

So, maybe new models are on the horizon, or something like that? Well, Apple's Watch 2 is rumored for March/April 2016—a ways off, so it probably isn't that.

In fact, I ran the current Apple Sport smartwatch through Camelcamelcamel, an Amazon price tracker service, and got similar results to what the Brit newspaper found.

While that economy Sport model watch hovered in the $400 to $500 range from the end of June to mid-November, since then it's been consistently cheaper than $400 and is out the door for $330 at third-party retailers right now. And that's in the lead up to the gift-giving holidays.

And looking at the Camelcamelcamel price history graph, it's clear that the below-$400 price isn't an anomaly—it's here to stay at that price, or perhaps lower.


So, what's going on?

The technology is "now struggling to live up to the hype that accompanied the first smartphone-connected fitness trackers and smartwatches when they came onto the market," the Telegraph says.

Perhaps high expectations for a device genre that was going to change our lives and didn't? We bought fitness trackers, wore them for a while, but didn't get any fitter.

We now have calendars on our wrists, but are still failing to fill our day with intimate pow-wows with Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or Justin Bieber.

Does data about how much sleep one gets really get us a better night sleep? A pair of ear plugs, slapping-down the noisy neighbors, and leaving tempting gadgets—with their bright screens that mimic daytime and supposedly interrupt the body's natural rhythms—nowhere near the bedroom is more likely to accomplish the job.


And if you're not convinced and still want one of these things, Fitbit leads the market with models such as Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Surge, according to IDC.

Why? Maybe it helps that large U.S. companies like Target, Bank of America, and Time Warner are buying those particular devices for their employees. That's presumably to squeeze out more work and reduce sick-days by making the workers fitter.

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