Wearables appear to be throwaways. This isn’t a missive dissing Apple Watch. Apple’s second entry into the wearable technology category is an excellent device. No, it’s not the second coming of iPhone. Watch is an iPhone accessory, designed for those who need certain information quickly, but don’t want to rummage through pocket, purse, or bag to get it from the iPhone. Watch takes awhile to get setup properly, but it has become the best watch ever, very useful, and a harbinger of devices to come (it’s easy to envision a standalone Watch with cell phone and Wi-Fi built-in).
Gartner, the business and technology guesstimate research company, says wearables need to be more useful and that abandonment rate is about 30-percent. There’s no mention of how or where Apple Watch fits into the grouping results but it should be safe to assume that wearables that cost less and do less are more easily abandoned by there users.
Does that mean Watch is a throwaway device? That depends upon who you talk to, what their experience is, and what the meaning of throwaway really is. For many of us who own Apple products– Mac, iPhone, iPad, et al– throwaway might mean resale or hand-me-down. Once we’ve decided we need a new one, out goes the old one.
Gartner seems to be taking a different perspective, though. About a third of wearables– which includes a broad range of products, from smartwatches to fitness tracking bands to the simplest of exercise or tracking bands– are purchased as a gift. And, again, about a third are abandoned.
Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry. The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate. To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification.
Hence Apple’s adjustment of focus to exercise and health for Apple Watch. It’s still an accessory, it’s still a fashion statement, but it’s utility has expanded and that’s a good thing because different strokes.
Again, is Apple Watch a throwaway device? Yes. And no. It’s unlikely that many Watch owners toss their Watch into a desk drawer and forget about it. If they did, they’re seriously lacking in patience and probably think iPhones are too complicated and electricity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
From personal experience I see plenty of Apple Watches on the hand-me-down list, a few on eBay and CraigsList, and of those I suspect some are getting rid of the device, while others have opted to upgrade the new Watch, and getting some value by selling the original Watch.
None of which really makes Apple Watch a throwaway device in the sense Gartner seems to mean. Gartner does segregate technology early adopters from mainstream, and segregates smartwatch penetration from fitness trackers (about double for the latter), and says most buyers are 45-years old or younger, but doesn’t give specific figures.
All of this needs to be taken with a grain of digital salt because Gartner’s research has a tendency to not recognize actual market trends until after the fact, and often the research results do not show an actual reflection of what is taking place at the time.
The well-respected Ed Bott asks why the industry pays any attention to Gartner because their track record for analysis and prediction is so wrong so often. Yes, it was Gartner who said Apple should quit the hardware business and license the Mac to Dell. By the way, the Mac owns more than half the PC industry’s profits, and that includes Dell.
Gartner’s predictions on which operating systems will be relevant in the smartphone industry are laughable, so almost anything that Gartner writes should be taken with the aforementioned grain of digital salt.
Apple Watch isn’t much of a throwaway device, and just like Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and App Stores before it, Watch owns the smartwatch category no matter how you stuff the category with cheap-assed throwaway devices. And, just like iPod in the first few years, I see more Watches in the wild every day.