Smartwatches might prove the must-have consumer items of 2014 and beyond, but research firm Gartner thinks the devices won’t make much of an impression among holiday shoppers this year.
“Samsung and other well-known vendors have recently entered the smart watch space, yet the products we have seen so far have been rather uninspiring in terms of design, available apps and features,” Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner, wrote in a statement. “As a result, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will remain a companion to mobile phones at least through 2017, with less than one percent of premium phone users opting to replace their phone with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet.”
Zimmermann thinks that, in order for the smartwatch category to reach smartphone-like popularity, devices must retail for somewhere in the $200-to-$300 range—roughly the same price as a low-end tablet. There’s also a need for hardware and software innovative enough for consumers to plunk down that cash.
“Interoperability and stand-alone apps give the smart watch more value on its own — that is when it is not connected to a smartphone,” Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, wrote in a statement. “Even though smart watches play a ‘supporting role’ to smartphones, designing the smart watch only to act as a secondary device will consign it to failure.” Opening up smartwatch software to third-party apps could go a long way toward boosting the devices’ popularity, especially if developers have full access to any onboard sensors (such as accelerometers, gyroscope, and cameras).
If the tech industry has its way, smartwatches will indeed become the Next Big Thing. While Samsung’s Galaxy Gear hasn’t drawn a lot of praise for its design and features, the manufacturer clearly wants the device to become a hit, having shipped 800,000 units to retailers over the past two months (whether the device is actually selling is another question entirely). According to The Wall Street Journal, which drew its information from the always-popular anonymous sources “familiar with the matter,” Google is in the later stages of development on a timepiece that runs Android. And rumors have circulated for months that Apple is hard at work on an “iWatch.”