IDC: Wearable, Smartwatch Buyers Want Tech With Style

Techies were among the earliest adopters of smartwatches and other wearables, but the next wave of wearable buyers are aiming more for style, according to new research from IDC.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

March 2, 2016

3 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Onfokus/iStockphoto)</p>

Samsung, Huawei, HTC Show Off Smartwatches At CES

Samsung, Huawei, HTC Show Off Smartwatches At CES

Samsung, Huawei, HTC Show Off Smartwatches At CES (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The wearable market is at a turning point. Fitness bands from companies such as FitBit led the way, but more consumers are opting for full-fledged smartwatches. However, the impulse behind smartwatch purchases isn't quite what you'd expect, according to research from IDC.

It turns out that those most likely to strap powerful computers to their wrists don't much care for the technical merits, and are instead interested in how the wearable will make them look.

Wearable intenders, or those who plan to buy a wearable in the next six months, are tech savvy, socially active, and extremely style conscious, according to the March 1 report from IDC. The company recently polled some 1,500 US consumers and asked them their thoughts on wearables.

Such consumers are already comfortable with technology, with three-quarters of them admitting to checking their smartphones first thing in the morning. Wearable intenders are aware of what wearable tech can do, and agree that the "wearable segment is exciting" and is "the next big thing" in technology.

About two-thirds of respondents believe wearable tech will "positively impact" their lives.

The majority of potential smartwatch buyers use Facebook, and 29% of those surveyed indicated they check the social network hourly throughout the day. In fact, more than half of wearable intenders admit to feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) if they don't check in with social media often enough.

What's most striking, however, are wearable intenders' thoughts on style. For example, 81% of those polled said they are conscious of how they present themselves, 77% said how they dress is important to them, 66% said their clothing is an expression of self, and 63% said the accessories they choose speak volumes.

"Intenders are enthusiastic about wearables but have hesitated to actually purchase a device," Allan Fromen, vice president and consulting partner for IDC's Global Buyer Behavior Practice, wrote in the report. "This implies that companies have not yet cracked the code to deliver something that is both functional and fashionable. Given that intenders are highly style conscious, companies clearly need to focus on the aesthetics of their product -- perhaps even more so than the features."

[Find out why wearables were not part of the discussion at MWC this year.]

Not surprisingly, about half of those polled said they prefer Apple for smartwatches, while one-third prefer Fitbit for fitness trackers. These two companies are the current market leaders.

Google's Android Wear platform is available in a wide variety of form factors, many of which are increasingly falling into the premium category. For example, Huawei offers a gold-plated version of its Watch, while Tag Heuer outed a high-end Android smartwatch earlier this year. Samsung, with its Tizen platform, recently because shipping titanium and gold-plated versions of its Gear S2 Classic smartwatch.

It will be curious to see if vendors other than Apple can score favorably with the style-conscious set. IDC thinks they can.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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