Smartwatches: most owners have stopped using them

Pebble

Samsung, Microsoft and Google might struggle to persuade consumers of smartwatch benefits

Samsung is set to unveil its Galaxy Gear smartwatch - but it and other tech firms might not sell many wearable devices if they don't do a better job convincing consumers of their benefits.

The smartwatch is expected to be announced later today, and will reportedly allow users to send and receive calls and texts, access the internet and display notifications. Microsoft, Apple and Google are all reportedly working on similar devices.

But the tech giants will have to work on several factors including battery life, comfort, design and price if they’re to persuade consumers the watches more than just a fad, according to research from CCS Insight and On Device Research.

The two firms surveyed more than 1,500 smartphone owners in the US and UK and found awareness for smartwatches, Google Glass and wearable technology in general was high at more than 50%.

The smartwatch is either misunderstood or seen as trying to be like a Swiss Army knife

But ownership and interest was much lower – fewer than 20 people surveyed actually own a smartwatch and most have stopped using them.

"We’re looking at a small number of people, but it’s indicative of what the problem is – smartwatches aren’t catchy enough and don’t provide enough benefits," said analyst Marina Koytcheva.

"It was a surprise - seeing how close the number of people who own a device was to those who have stopped using it," she added. "Some people tried them and didn’t see the point. The top two answers were that they forgot to wear them, and that they got bored with them."

Poorly understood

Koytcheva added that around a quarter of respondents couldn't clearly describe the point of a smartwatch, beyond being able to tell the time.

"The smartwatch is either misunderstood or seen as trying to be like a Swiss Army knife," she said.

And although high awareness might be a promising start, Koytcheva said Samsung and other firms will have to dig deep into their marketing budget to convince users to buy, or even bundle the devices with other products.

"A few things will have to come together - displaying what the smartwatch can do, having the right apps and functionality and also the right price," she said.

Koytcheva said she expected smartwatches to start retailing anywhere between $200 to $300, which would likely prove an "issue" for mainstream consumers.

Smartwatches aren’t a new idea. Samsung itself released the first "watch phone" in 1999, the SPH-WP10, which failed to gain much traction. But publicity for the crowdfunded Pebble smartwatch, which received 250,000 pre-orders through Kickstarter, appears to have renewed interest in the category, with Google buying Android watch-maker Wimm Labs last year and Apple reportedly ordering parts for its iWatch.

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