Wearable tech devices are more like fashionable toys than necessary tools
You say ‘wearable device’ and the very first name that comes to mind is Apple Watch. Although it is not the first smartwatch, perhaps, it is the most ambitious and well-designed (in terms of functionality) smartwatch. Then there are fitness bands that track user’s movement, steps, heart rate and offer other similar information. Both, the smartwatches and fitness bands or wristbands from reputed brands, are still beyond the reach of ordinary buyers.
The first wearable device, many of us would remember, was a digital watch with calculator. Today’s smartwatch can do more than that; but again, its usage is still limited, especially looking at the features these devices offer. In 2013, Pebble, a crowdfunding-backed start-up, reinvented the smartwatch and was a successful launch. By end-2014, Pebble claimed to have sold one million devices. The company is now selling its second-generation Pebble Time. Using Google’s Android operating system, in March 2014, Motorola launched its Moto 360 smartwatch. This was powered by Android Wear, the modified and customised version of Android. Later, in September that year, Apple joined the bandwagon with its Apple Watch.
Jawbone and Fitbit Flex have been receiving a very good response to their fitness bands, since 2013. Besides these two, several other players, like Garmin, have entered the market. However, sales of wristbands are not very encouraging.
This may be due to the limits on their ability to connect with other devices and battery power, constrained by the sizes available and higher price tag. The last factor is the main reason for lower sales in a country like India known for consumers who want value for money.
All these smartwatches, or wristbands, perform as they are supposed to. But, when it comes to seamless interconnecting or communicating with other devices, they have limitations. For example, you can connect an Apple Watch with all other devices from Apple, but it takes some time to make it compatible with devices from other manufacturers.
Another issue is ease of use. Take the example of interconnected smartwatch and mobile handset. For both devices, you need to use your hands. Now, if at all, I have to attend a call or reply to a message, wouldn’t it be better to use a mobile handset instead of the smartwatch? Nevertheless, things are changing and I hope these issues would get resolved in future.
One of the most important qualities any wearable device should have is to make technology pervasive by interweaving it with our daily life and usage. Except a few, most of today’s wearable gadgets are still learning this. These devices are useful but more as fashionable toys rather than as necessities. For example, a few months ago, London-based fashion company, CuteCircuit, created special costumes for singer Katy Parry. These costumes had LED (light emitting diode) lighting that changed colour during stage shows and appearances on the red carpet for the singer.
But, you do not wear such costumes daily; right? Or even if you wear a smart T-shirt, its usage would be limited, for a particular time. You may use it only for some specific activity, like jogging, or walking, or even partying.
Remember Google Glass, the optical head-mounted display gadget? Google Glass was aimed at delivering rich text and notifications through a heads-up display worn as an eyeglass. It also had a 5MP camera to record videos at 720 pixels. It went into customer beta in March 2013; but its adoption by users remained limited. Finally, in early 2015, Google halted its sales after criticism of the design and a towering price tag of $1,500. Maybe, with changing technology and innovations, we may have more useful wearable devices in future.