It was only a couple of years ago that expectations for smartwatches were off the charts. All the signs pointed to an exciting new form factor for smart technology that would change the world once again. Two years later, that narrative is all but dead.
According to a report by IDC in October, smartwatches have experienced a 52 percent decline in 2016. Considering how young smartwatches are and how new products like the Apple Watch are, that is very bad news.
However, just because the market seems dead at this point, it doesn’t mean the next Apple or Samsung watch couldn’t revive it altogether. However, at this point, smartwatches are in serious trouble. Here are the 5 signs that make it clear:
Apple is an important player in the market—and its entry into a specific product category has always marked a certain amount of maturation and excitement around it. For years now, Apple has been dumping its resources and attention into the Apple Watch bucket. Known as the baby of CEO Tim Cook, sales expectations for the Apple Watch were astronomical. iPad sales were slowing dramatically, and the Apple Watch was going to be the next big thing to rally around for Apple.
Unfortunately, the Apple Watch failed to meet these high sales expectations for the product. It’s sold more than any other smartwatch, but by Apple standards, it hasn’t nearly made the impact that was hoped for. Although we did get a significant software update in watchOS 3, seeing Apple shift it’s focus back to the iPad and the MacBook Pro in 2016 felt like a clear sign that it needed to recalibrate.
It looks like the company responsible for the original smartwatch will be acquired by fitness tracker kings Fitbit. Even though Pebble has completed a number of highly successful Kickstarter campaigns and launched a new lineup of watches this year, it’s currently being valued at a surprisingly low $40 million.
If the purchase by Fitbit goes through, there’s little hope that Pebble will survive in any real sense after the acquisition. Fitbit will no doubt take some of the technology and use it on its own smartwatches, but one of the biggest and most unique players in the smartwatch game look to be pretty much gone.
Even though Google announced the second version of its wearable operating system way back in May, it announced in September that it would be delayed to next year. Google says that the delay is just for fine-tuning the software, the decision does come across a little suspicious. The biggest change to Android Wear is that standalone apps for the watch that can be downloaded straight from the Google Play Store.
The decision to delay Android Wear 2.0 no doubts put its OEM partners in a weird position, which might explain some of the reasons why companies like Huawei, Samsung, and Sony have held off on new versions of its smartwatches. We’ll have to wait and see if Android Wear 2.0 is interesting enough to bring OEM partners back, but some companies have already preemptively called it quits altogether.
One of the biggest proponents of Android Wear is exiting the game without any clear plans of returning. The Verge has confirmed that Lenovo Moto doesn’t see another iteration of the Moto 360 in its future.
Speaking to the head of global product development, Shakil Barkat, The Verge reports that the company doesn’t “see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time. Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year.”
The Moto 360 first launched in 2014 as the first circular smartwatch and the first Android Wear watch to really catch our attention. It was classy, customizable, and held a lot of promise for the future of smartwatches. The update came in 2015, bringing better battery life, a thinner shell, and a smaller size option. The 2nd generation even won the award as our favorite smartwatch of the year, beating out stiff competition from the likes of Apple, Pebble, and Samsung.
“It has also become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst from the IDC report mentioned earlier. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.”
The smartwatch is still quite young. The ideas about what a computer on your wrist can do have been numerous and varied, but none have really stuck. Aside from those that focus on health, smartwatches and wearables in general have failed to capture the attention of the masses. It’s completely possible that next year we will get the product that changes that, but as of now, it’s simply a product that is for tech nerds only.