Though perhaps not the runaway success many predicted, the smartwatch is not exactly in its death throes.
According to the NPD Group, U.S. smartwatch ownership will increase 60% by the beginning of 2019, owing to a spate of expected new devices, features and updates. According to the company, nearly 9% of U.S. adult consumers owned a smartwatch as of June 2017 (up almost 1.5% from the beginning of the year). By the end of 2018, the company forecasts nearly 15% of consumers will own a smartwatch.
“When smartphones first came on the scene, people came out with outrageous predictions in terms of growth,” Weston Henderek, director, of NPD’s Connected Intelligence, tells Marketing Daily. “They didn’t live up to the initial hype. We’ve seen that happen with a lot of new tech products that didn’t start strong, but have built up since.”
Part of the smartwatch’s initial problem was a lack of a “killer” use case that gave people a clear reason to buy one, Henderek says. Many of the watches’ features seemed more “nice to have” rather than “need to have.” But now, even some of the simpler functions — like text notification, activity tracking and news updates — are proving valuable as people are not constantly checking their phones for such quick glance information.
“Even some of the simple use cases are now becoming killer use cases,” Henderek says. “People in the service industry, who are working with customers throughout the day, can’t look at texts and e-mails through their phones. [But] they can use a smartphone to do it without interrupting their work.”
Indeed, the highest penetration of smartphone ownership is in the lowest income category (those who make less than $45,000 a year), which would include many in the service industry, Hendrek says.
One area where smartwatch functionality could have a huge effect is in home automation, Henderek says. “It’s becoming convenient to have something on your wrist to be the control point,” he says.
Another factor that could prove to be a boon would be to have watches with their own cell functionality, untethering them from the smartphone altogether. “A lot of smartwatches are still reliant on the smartphones, and they’re duplicating functionality,” Henderek says. “But if you have a device that has built-in connectivity, there are more possibilities.”