If you’ve been paying attention to the tech world for the last year or so, one of the big topics has been about the smartwatch. This device would allow you to take calls and messages, check the weather, and more, all from the comfort of your wrist. It was purported to be the next “big thing” in the tech world, especially when it came to wearables. Yet, smartwatches are still pretty much grounded, even though there have been more and more of them flooding the market. Even Apple is purported to release their “Apple Watch” in 2015.
So, “what happened”? Why have smartwatches not taken off like most experts expected them to?
The reason is because of perceived value, or more specifically, the lack thereof.
When a consumer is considering a purchase, he/she has to consider the following:
– What’s in it for me? (What is commonly referred to as “WIIFM” – which you can also define as the benefits of the product).
– The price of the product.
– How much value the product brings to me. (In other words, how much value does the consumer perceive to receive when he/she purchases that product?).
Thus, when a person considers a smartwatch, he/she will ask what that smartwatch can do for him/her (WIIFM).
– It can handle phone calls and messages.
– It can tell the time.
– It can give a weather forecast.
– It can browse the Web (though, as you can imagine, due to its tiny screen, it’s not a comfortable browsing experience by any means).
The problem is, how is this different from a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer? In reality, it really isn’t. Thus, there is no new value that is created, certainly no more value than what any of these other devices can give to you. The consumer will not perceive any new value that makes him/her shout, “I’ve got to have a smartwatch!”
Even worse, almost every smartwatch currently on the market needs a phone in order for it to handle the phone calls and messages it can handle (i.e. a smartwatch alone cannot be used to handle phone calls and messages). This means that a person has to purchase a smartwatch AND a smartphone in order to benefit from the watch.
Thus, why would a person be willing to pay a few to several hundred dollars for a smartphone, then be willing to pay a few to several hundred dollars MORE for a smartwatch when the watch really doesn’t do anything that the smartphone doesn’t do.
Some proponents of a smartwatch will say, “But you can carry the watch right on your wrist and don’t have to pull out your phone.”
Really, though, is pulling out your phone that difficult? Most phones are not heavy, and virtually everyone is carrying it on them nowadays, so it’s not that difficult to pull it out, not when we rely on them so much. The few instances where this might have been an issue, such as when you are jogging, companies have come out with convenient ways to mitigate this issue.
Have you seen that new waistband product that you can put around your waist and carry products such as your smartphone in it? It’s even moisture-resistant, so even if you have no pockets in your athletic wear, you can still have your cell phone on you, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. Thus, the smartwatch’s perceived advantage and value over a smartphone is largely mitigated even in this rare instance where a smartwatch could have an advantage over a smartphone.
Thus, most people are not going to look at a smartwatch and think, “I’ve got to have that.” There is no perceived value and advantage to any other mobile device that a person currently has. This is especially true in light of the fact that the smartwatch can’t handle phone calls and messages without a smartphone to go with it.
In fact, look at some of the main advantages of the three main Internet-enabled devices in use today: Smartphones, Tablets, PCs/Laptops
– Smartphones can take and make phone calls, keep messages, keep important contact information, and dial a person in a split second.
– Smartphones enable people to browse comfortably enough on the go to do online research and compare prices and items from various retailers.
– Smartphones enable people to pass the time when they have a few minutes, such as playing games, text messaging, listening to music, or watching video.
– Tablets can enable you to comfortably browse the Web, such as conducting research on various products you may want to buy. Research has also shown that tablets, more than smartphones, in fact, are the preferred mobile device to make purchases on. Thus, consumers like larger screens in order to make purchases.
– Tablets enable you to easily watch television programs, listen to music, or watch movies/video via the larger screen. Again, the larger screen of the tablet works well for people to consume content (especially when it comes to video).
– Tablets have more processing power to where they can handle more complex apps and tasks; with an added keyboard, even light to moderate word processing tasks can be done.
– PCs/Laptops enable you to have the richest Web browsing experience, since the screens are the largest.
– PCs/Laptops enable you to watch your favorite programs and movies, listen to music, and more via the largest screens available.
– PCs/Laptops have the most processing power so that they can handle virtually any app (that can be used via a regular computer, and most apps can now); with their own keyboards, they are also the best choice for the heaviest word processing tasks.
Now, when you compare all of those features to a smartwatch’s features, tell me what a smartwatch can do better? That’s right – nothing (one possibility that could exist is mentioned below).
Thus, can you see why smartwatches have failed to take off? With a lack of perceived value, consumers are not motivated enough to be rushing to the stores and pick up a smartwatch.
This is likely not changing even with the Apple Watch – again, it comes down to a lack of perceived value. I feel that this lack of value and the higher price tag is why some analysts are now thinking that the Apple Watch may also be a “flop.” While fans of Apple products are strong supporters of the Apple brand, they too will think, “Why do I need an Apple Watch when my iPhone can do everything I need it to do? The Apple Watch won’t work without the iPhone, so why do I need to pay an extra $350 or so to get a product that won’t do anything extra that will benefit me?”
There is nothing a smartwatch can do that any of the other Internet-connected devices can’t do. This includes the smartphone, and virtually everyone has their smartphone on them at all times, thus largely negating the convenience and advantage of having a smartwatch on your arm.
So, what can smartwatch manufacturers do to add perceived value so that consumers are willing to rush out and buy one?
If these smartwatch manufacturers can get it to where a smartwatch can handle calls and messages with no smartphone needed, that could appeal to a part of the market that isn’t interested in paying out a few to several hundred dollars for a smartphone. If the smartwatch is priced competitively enough to offset most smartphones (i.e. $100-$200 at most), people who have wanted a smartphone but were turned off by the cost and only went with a basic cell phone, might be willing to upgrade to a smartwatch if it does virtually everything a basic cell phone does, plus a little more.
One feature that smartwatch manufacturers could emphasize is its ability to play audio. Being that watching video on a smartwatch is impractical due to its tiny screen, listening to audio could be a viable benefit to emphasize. Whether that’s music or audiobooks (a growing market in the digital publishing world), smartwatches could even be a viable addition to those who already have a smartphone, as they might be more willing to activate the watches on their wrists to listen to audio rather than pulling out their smartphones, especially since most people use smartphones’s calling and texting capabilities, whether via the phone itself or via apps (such as Facebook, etc.).
Using such capabilities on the smartphone consumes precious battery life; especially for people on-the-go all day and coming home from work who want to listen to audio content, listening on their smartwatches might be more amenable to conserve on the small amount of battery life left on their phones.
The one barrier that would need to be overcome when it comes to emphasizing smartwatch’s audio capabilities (besides the fact that the audio needs to be crystal-clear in clarity and volume) is the ability to transmit the sound directly from the watch to the person’s ears, as it ‘s likely most people near them do not want to hear the book the person is listening to, etc. I would think this would be doable, either by enabling the ability to plug in headphones, or better yet, via a wireless transmission, such as Bluetooth headphones or ear pieces, etc.
Unless smartwatch manufacturers increase the perceived value of smartwatches, it is unlikely that people are going to see them as essential, must-have mobile devices. Right now, people do not see smartwatches as more than accessories to smartphones, and being that they do nothing more than what smartphones (and tablets and computers) do, they are seen as nothing more than superfluous purchases, and relatively expensive purchases at that.
Most will not be able to justify paying $100-$500+ dollars for a smartphone, then have to pay another $100-$500+ for a smartwatch, just so that messages can be transferred back and forth and so that a person doesn’t have to reach into his/her pocket, handbag, or waistband for his/her phone that is always with him/her. Unless that smartwatch can do something specific that a smartphone cannot do or cannot do as easily to provide a perceived value that a smartphone cannot, it is very unlikely smartwatches will take off and sustain themselves as an established subsection of the mobile market.