Fitness: The Future of Wearables

Smartphones may still be dominating the tech market but smartwatches seem to have found their niche. 

When smartwatches first came out three years ago, tech giants were disappointed with the public's reception of them. Sales failed to meet expectations as customers did not get excited about the possibility of reading texts, emails, and controlling basic smartphone functions via wearables. The unusual design of smartwatches, as well as their short battery life, did not help launch of wearables either. 

It was only until wearables focused on fitness did smartwatches finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Worldwide smartwatch shipments skyrocketed to 800% from 5 million units in 2004 to 40.5 million in 2015 when some product lines focused on fitness. It was a remarkable achievement for smartwatches. This year, tech companies estimate that about 70 million smartwatches will be shipped to different stores worldwide. 

Designed for runners

In an attempt to capitalize on the growing market, Apple teamed up with Nike to create a fitness-focused smartwatch. According to Nike’s CEO Jeff Williams, the watch was designed with runners in mind. 

With a strong emphasis on the Apple Watch Series 2, which was developed to inspire users to adapt a healthier lifestyle, Apple's take on the future of smartwatches seems to be leaning on the fitness sector. Unlike other companies that try to integrate games on smartwatches, Apple will mainly target fitness buffs, and possibly users who maintain strict dietary requirements in the future. 

"It's still not something that will make an average consumer run out and buy one," said a tech analyst when interviewed by the Agence France-Presse. "For now, the increased fitness capabilities and Nike partnerships will keep the Apple Watch business moving, without creating a break-out new product category success for Apple as the original iPhone was nine years ago."

He further stated that tech companies need to make impressive technological breakthroughs in order to appeal to a bigger market, particularly tech geeks. 

"I still think there's a tremendous opportunity for it, but the technology needs to become better, to enable multi-day battery life, to enable ubiquitous always-on screens, to enable the size of the devices to become smaller."

Smartwatch for geeks

Smartwatches didn't exactly appeal to tech experts due to their redundant functionalities. Even if most of them look like a prop that came from a sci-fi series, wearables still didn't appeal to the more tech savvy market.

“It looks like a prop from Battlestar Galactica", said a PC World staffer while reviewing the first ever Samsung Galaxy Gear. While some may have felt that creating a gadget reminiscent of something that looked like something from the franchise that started back in 1978, even though it has a huge global fanbase, as well as a Battlestar Galactica slot game currently being hosted by gaming operators Spin Genie, looking like a gadget from a show that first aired in the 70s wasn’t enough to convince tech fanatics that it was a practical gadget worth investing in nor a groundbreaking tech innovation.

Additionally, the initial problem, of course, is related to the small screen size that limits wearables potential to provide entertainment. But as a fitness tracker, smartwatches are the perfect platform. 

The wearables market isn’t likely to diminish but it has to make more progress on the technological side. Experts predict that while smartwatches are gaining momentum in the consumer market, they might not be in the future if they don't evolve with the latest innovations.

Kate Unsworth