Dropouts Taking the Wind out of Wearables Market's Sails

Considerable abandonment rates raise doubts about whether consumers can sustain a vibrant wearable market.

The good news is that the market for wearable devices is up overall. Now the bad news...

Nearly a third of people who own fitness trackers (30 percent) or smartwatches (29 percent) eventually ditch them, discovered Gartner in a survey of nearly 9,000 consumers from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Sometimes, they're forced to give up their wearables because they break.

Other times, they simply grow bored of them.

"Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry," said Gartner research director Angela McIntyre, in a statement. "The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate."

McIntyre suggests that it may be time for wearable devices to step out of the smartphone's shadow and provide experiences consumers don't typically get on an iPhone or Android handset.

"To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide," she continued. "Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification."

Currently, the smartwatch adoption rate is 10 percent, squarely in the early adopter range. At 19 percent, fitness wearables have hit the early mainstream, said the analyst group. Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus rift – excluding Google Cardboard and its ilk – lag at 8 percent.

Most smartwatch and fitness tracker owners buy their own. Only 26 percent of smartwatches like the Apple Watch and thirty-four percent fitness wearables are purchased as gifts.

Fitbits and similar health monitoring devices are more popular in the U.S. (23 percent) than in Australia (19 percent) and the U.K. (15 percent). Most owners wear them every day, but not all of them are fond of putting them on.

Twenty-nine percent of those polled for Gartner's survey think fitness trackers are a bit of an eyesore. Finding one that looks good and is easy on the wallet can also put a dent in one's budget, said Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Fitness tracker cases and wristbands designed by fashion brands are sold as higher-priced upgrades, which may be a barrier to purchase," she stated.

The U.S. also leads in smartwatch adoption rates (12 percent), followed by the U.K (9 percent) and Australia (7 percent). Most users are 44 years of age and younger and more than half (58 percent) use their smartwatches every day, Gartner noted.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.




Tags: Gartner, wearables


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