As the tech world gets ready for CES later this week, wearables will once again be a big topic of discussion. Many attendees will be hoping to see some breakthrough product that will help move wearable devices from the realm of fitness trackers for obsessive-compulsive athletes and quantified-self enthusiasts into the full-fledged mainstream.
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The thing is, the product that was supposed to do that is already out, and it failed miserably at its appointed task.
Last year at this time, the tech world was holding its breath waiting for the Apple Watch to be released. With industry-leading functionality and Apple’s reputation for ease of use—not to mention marketing oomph—we were all hoping it would be the killer device that legitimized the entire category of wearable computing. Of course, that’s not how it turned out.
I’m not saying the Apple Watch is a terrible product—though it didn’t do the trick for me. It sold millions of units and many of those buyers seem very happy with their fancy new wristwear. I’m saying that the Apple Watch hasn’t been the kind of revolutionary product many people were hoping it would be. There have been lots of questions about the initial version’s usability and the limited number of viable use cases. And it hasn’t led to spikes in sales for other wearable devices.
Many people—including me, actually—are now looking forward to version two of the Apple Watch, widely expected to be announced and released later in 2016. We’re all hoping it will be enough improved to do what the version one couldn’t, as well as make wearing a smartwatch seem cool and indispensable.
I still firmly believe that someone—maybe Apple, maybe Google, maybe Samsung, maybe someone else—will eventually come up with a device that does that. Maybe we’ll see that device at CES. Maybe not. Either way, I’m still convinced that wearables will one day be seen as essential components of how people live, work, and communicate.
But the sad truth is that hasn’t happened yet, and it’s still not clear exactly what smartwatches need to do in order to achieve that goal. And it’s equally sad but true that the original Apple Watch has to be a huge disappointment to users, vendors and market watchers who felt sure we’d be well past this point by now.