You can probably assume just from personal experience that smartwatches are on the rise. The data backs this assertion up, too. The following are how many million units were sold in the last few years, plus a forecast for the final result of 2018.
- 2014 – 5
- 2015 – 19
- 2016 – 38
- 2017 – 75
- 2018 – 141
As you can see, smartwatches are starting to dominate the timepiece market. We explain the history of these devices, why they’re booming right now, and what the future might look like in the sections below.
Though smartwatches seem like a relatively new phenomenon, people have been throwing this term around for a long time. In fact, many call the 1972 Hamilton Pulsar the first smartwatch because it managed to use a digital display, rather than a conventional analog.
Moving on the 80’s, Seiko took a lead role in adding intelligent functions to their pieces. This process involved products that could display cable television, had sophisticated calculators, incorporated tiny radios, and more. In the 90’s, we started to see pieces that looked a lot more like the ones we have today. The Seiko MessageWatch is an excellent example, as it could display stock market prices, sports results, and weather data.
The turn of the century brought many watches that look like rudimentary versions of the products we have today. Some of the most prominent include the Fossil Palm Pilot, Microsoft SPOT, and Garmin Forerunner. Though much less powerful, these machines could carry out functions like saving phone numbers, keeping a to-do list, managing your calendar, and tracking fitness data.
The Recent Boom
The truth about smartwatches is that the initial models were both expensive and lacking in functionality. The same was true of the cell phone, computer, and almost every other form of groundbreaking technology. Recently, scores of excellent manufacturers have started jumping into the smartwatch market and making products that put their predecessors to shame. The reason is that they have remedied the two fatal flaws of earlier smartwatches.
What is Driving This Rise?
The following are the two crucial factors that are driving the smartwatch industries meteoric rise.
- Falling Prices – The first watch we mentioned, the Hamilton Pulsar, was priced at $2,100 in 1972. Adjusted for inflation, that is almost $13,000 in today’s money. All that money for a simple digital display! As you can imagine, only a tiny portion of the population could afford it. Today, smartwatches can be had for as little as $50, and even the most expensive of them usually do not exceed $1,000.
- Increased Functionality – Let’s compare to a watch of the past again. The Fossil Palm Pilot wowed people of its time with the ability to make notes, keep a calendar, and store phone numbers. Today, those are basic functions that consumers take for granted while paying more attention to sending texts, making calls, surfing the web, and more.
What Shortcoming Do Smartwatches Still Have?
Though these pieces of technology have come a long way, they still face the hurdle that is battery life. To understand why, think about other types of watches. Quartz pieces operate on a battery and often can function on one charge for multiple years. Automatic and manual timepieces operate indefinitely, albeit the occasional winding and some maintenance from a professional. Smartwatches, on the other hand, often can only function for one full day on a charge. While we deal with similar issues with our phones and laptops, there are many people out there that don’t want to maintain their watch nearly every day.
What Does the Future Look Like?
Smartwatches have hit a sweet spot of growing demand, quickly improve technology, and reasonable prices. The result of those factors leads us to believe that they aren’t going away anytime soon, if ever. What makes the future so bright for these products is that they are fast becoming lifestyle companions for consumers in the Western world. Every day, thousands of consumers are giving these watches a try and finding that they increase quality of life substantially. Once somebody gets into the habit of using something, they usually don’t stop. That should mean high retention rates for smartwatch companies.
Another issue watch enthusiasts wonder about is how much of a market share smartwatches will take from conventional pieces. In our opinion, there will be an effect, but old-fashioned watches definitely aren’t going away.
People will still want the high status that comes with luxury products, the aesthetics of good looking pieces, and the rugged capabilities of survival watches. Ultimately, consumers are more likely to purchase smartwatches in addition to conventional ones, rather than the former replacing the latter.
As you can see, smartwatches have come a long way from the 70’s. Today, they are essentially small, hyper-useful computers that can be had for reasonable prices.
These attributes combine to make us believe that the future is bright for this product and it could make its way into your life soon. If you’re sold on them already, check out some of the most popular brands: Apple, Samsung, Garmin, ASUS, Motorola, and Pebble. Going with one of those established names should guarantee your satisfaction.