handsets that are popular in emerging markets. Gartner suspects Android Wear could similarly rise to prominence in the wearables market, and that smartwatches running Android might cost less than $150 on average. The Apple Watch, in contrast, will start at $349, with rumors suggesting the gold Apple Watch Edition model could cost as much as $5,000.
Gartner's report criticizes early smartwatches from Samsung and Sony as "unclear" in their value proposition, but says Android Wear is promising because it effectively offers a Google Now personal-assistant experience made for tiny, portable screens.
Nevertheless, current wearable devices don't have a great track record. According to a report released earlier this year by Endeavour Partners, over half of respondents who own or owned an activity tracker or fitness band stopped using it. One-third of people who purchased a tracker abandoned it within six months.
These statistics might demonstrate why communication functionality and apps are necessary for wearables to achieve wide adoption; smartwatches are supposed to be lifestyle devices, after all, not just accessories for fitness buffs. But the statistics might also demonstrate that industry experts are more excited about wearables than consumers are.
McIntyre said figures like those from Endeavour aren't as troubling as they appear. She conceded some percentage of users will drop a wearable device because it doesn't work as well as they'd hoped. In other cases, however, she said low use might not indicate dissatisfaction. If a runner gets the same general results each time he wears his smartwatch, he might conclude he's learned what he needs to know and stop using the device, for example. Others might have purchased the device for a specific goal, such as losing weight or training for a marathon. Once the goal is achieved, the user naturally uses the fitness tracker less frequently, McIntyre said.
She said smartwatches with more accurate sensors could appeal to the "quantified self" crowd, but that the communications capabilities will help new devices achieve greater success than dedicated fitness devices. Before that happens, though, smartwatch makers will have to answer several lingering questions. McIntyre said battery life continues to be a major concern, for example, and that fitness and health applications open a world of privacy and security fears.
Will smartwatches live up to the new hype? Forrester analysts have been touting Google Glass for over a year, and that product still hasn't broken through. Now that wearables manufacturers are more focused on the wrist than the eyes, will adoption finally take off? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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