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Survey: Wearable Devices Not Useful Enough

Wearable computing devices need to be more useful to drive adoption, according to a new survey from Gartner.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers are abandoned at rates of 29 percent and 30 percent, respectively, because users do not find them useful, they get bored with them or the devices break, according to the company.

"Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry," said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, in a news release. "The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate. To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification."

According to the survey, which included 9,592 online responses from people in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, smartwatches are still in the early adopter stage, at 10 percent adoption, and fitness trackers are in the early mainstream stage, with 19 percent adoption. Only 8 percent of survey participants had ever used virtual reality glasses or headsets, excluding cardboard varieties.

The U.S. had the highest smartwatch adoption rate at 12 percent, with the U.K. and Australia following at 9 and 7 percent, respectively. Those numbers are up from the previous year, in which a similar survey found rates in the U.S. of 8 percent and in the U.K. of 5 percent.

Smartwatch use was higher among people younger than 45; most people (58 percent) who reported using them at all said they use them every day, with another 33 percent saying they use them several times a week.

The U.S. also led with fitness tracker adoption, at a rate of 23 percent. Adoption in Australia followed at 19 percent and the U.K. came in third with 17 percent of those surveyed saying they used the devices. As with smartwatches, usage was up in the U.S. and U.K., where survey respondents reported respective adoption rates of 17 percent and 10 percent in 2015.

Nearly a third of respondents, 29 percent, said that fitness trackers are unappealing and neither fashionable nor attractive.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers tend to be purchased by their users, with only 26 percent of smartwatches and 34 percent of fitness trackers being purchased as gifts, according to Gartner.

"Survey respondents indicated that wearable devices are priced too high, given their perceived usefulness," according to a news release. "Gartner believes that wearable providers that do not have a strong brand name will find it more difficult to grow market share, competing directly with popular brands. Instead, they should accept lower margins and provide an alternative that is priced significantly lower than top brands, but still has good quality for price-sensitive consumers."

"Continued growth in the adoption of smartwatches and fitness trackers will now be from mainstream consumers instead of early technology adopters," added McIntyre. "The greatest hurdle for fitness tracker and smartwatch providers to overcome is the consumer perception that the devices do not offer a compelling enough value proposition."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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