Smartwatches will be everywhere this year. With Google announcing Android Wear and companies already showing off devices at CES and Mobile World Congress, it won’t be long before a slew of smartwatches are sitting on store shelves.
Of course, smartwatches are already available. In fact, several companies, from Samsung to Pebble, have offered their interpretation of wrist-worn wearables. The trouble for those firms, however, is that so far, those products haven’t taken off. And it’s unclear whether even Android Wear could go a long way in pushing smartwatches onto more wrists.
It’s a step in the right direction, for sure, but it’s not the panacea Google would have us believe.
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So, what’s wrong with the wearable market? Blame it on the technology companies. To this point, Pebble aside, only major tech firms that have the requisite ability to build software and hardware have been trying their luck in smartwatches. But the best way to actually achieve success in the marketplace will not come from major tech firms necessarily, but from mainstream watchmakers that people know and trust.
See, deciding on a watch is about fashion. There was a time long ago when watches were a necessary component on everyone’s wrist. After all, how else would you tell time? But nowadays, we’re walking around with smartphones in our pockets or purses that can tell us the time whenever we want.
The actual function of the watch, therefore, has fallen by the wayside, and it’s become little more than a fashion accessory.
With smartwatches now trying to join the fray, one thing we’ve seen so far is that none of the companies building such devices seem to realize that telling time is far down the list of desired smartwatch features. Instead, customers want a product that’s stylish, will look good both at work and at home, and will complement their design sense.
Watchmakers know what it takes to be successful in that market. The companies have for years been delivering products that satisfy those who want a product sitting on their wrists; they know the market and they know how to capitalize on it.
That’s why it was so important that Google was able to sign on Fossil for its Android Wear initiative. Fossil is a company that knows how to make a watch and get people to buy them. That the company is now thinking about getting into the smartwatch market legitimizes the industry a bit and gives wearables a much better chance of succeeding over the long-term.
Now, this isn’t to say that companies like Samsung and Apple can’t appeal to watch buyers. But buying a watch is very much a fashion statement. And it’s best that the companies that specialize in watch fashion actually spend their time delivering such products.
So, now that Fossil has signed on, you can bet that many, many other companies out there are watching closely. If Fossil has some success, expect more traditional watchmakers to join the fray. And when that happens, the smartwatch market will really start moving along.
Smartwatches aren’t about Apple or Google; they’re about attracting the right companies that understand cultural and fashion values. And right now, those companies are making traditional watches, not smartphones.
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