Wearable Technology: Will 2015 Be The Year Of The Smartwatch?


Jan 22, 2015 by Alex

If one thing is hot in technology right now, it's wearable tech - and if there's one thing that's hot in wearable tech, it's the smartwatch. With a new year breaking, and delegates looking forward to London's second Wearable Technology Show in March, there is lots of talk about smartwatches, and specifically the much-anticipated Apple Watch, due for launch in the spring.

According to some, smartwatches are the next big thing, and will revolutionise personal technology just as the smartphone did. However, for others, they are likely to be a short-lived fad due to several shortcomings.


Where Apple leads

The launch of the Apple Watch is likely to prompt many people to buy their first smartwatch, simply because it's an Apple product. This is, after all, the company that has people sleeping on the pavements outside its shops, desperate to be first in line for new releases. However, some have spotted warning signs around the launch of this particular product.

Firstly, Apple's growth has slowed recently, and although it is still a massive organisation, this time around the company will be not be able to harness the iconic status and charisma of the late Steve Jobs in its branding drive. In one American survey, just 5% of iPhone owners (who are presumably already fans of Apple) declared themselves 'very likely' to buy an Apple Watch.

Secondly, the Apple smartwatch is a relative latecomer to the market; although wearable tech so far has been mainly used for fitness tracking, there are some watches out there - but none has yet emerged as a market leader. Whether Apple can take that position remains to be seen. In November, Microsoft announced the launch of the wearable Microsoft Band, which, although it tracks fitness, also alerts the wearer to 'phone calls, e-mails, texts and other notifications. What is more, the Microsoft Band works with iOS, Android and Windows phones; in contrast, the Apple Watch is compatible with Apple devices only. So there is plenty of competition facing Apple in the field and on the horizon.


Changes in focus

With new products entering the smartwatch market in such numbers, it does seem likely to be the big product of 2015. However, will that popularity last? Some think not. Critics point out that while having tech on your wrist is handy, it isn't always user friendly; exactly how convenient is a watch-style device for holding a phone conversation, or surfing the net, for example? Some manufacturers have spotted this problem and tried to get round it: the Samsung Gear S has a large 'wrap around' screen that pushes the limits of what can comfortably be worn on the wrist, but the fact remains that the wrist is a very small space.

Thus although surveys of tech users have shown that they want 'phone, map and web capabilities and localised information on their smartwatches, the resulting products may not be completely practical. Does that mean the smartphone bubble will both rise and fall in 2015? We will have to wait and see.