Smartwatches a geek ghetto

New Zealand auction site TradeMe lists dozens, maybe hundreds, of Apple Watches. Many are new or nearly new. 

This is unremarkable. Every imaginable electronic device is available on TradeMe. 

Yet the number of unwanted Apple Watches is high for a small country like New Zealand. The number is high considering how few Watches have sold here. And prices are low, often much lower than in the online Apple Store.

It’s not just Apple. You’ll find plenty of  Samsung Galaxy Gear watches on TradeMe. Other, less well-known smartwatch brands are also represented.

Smartwatches have failed to capture the public imagination in the way smart phones and tablets did. Sales are a long way behind the bullish forecasts made when the category started. 

According to research company IDC smartwatch shipments for the recent quarter are down by a third on the same time last year. A total of 3.5 million units were shipped compared with 5.1 million for the same period a year earlier.

Apple Watch sales were hardest hit. Shipments are down 55 percent to about 1.6 million. That’s still about half the smartwatch market, but being the biggest fish in a puddle is nothing to boast about.

IDC says Apple Watch sales have stalled because customers are waiting for new models and a WatchOS update. 

This may be true, but it doesn’t disguise how disappointing this category has been for the companies making smartwatches. 

One problem is that, health and fitness applications aside, smartwatches do little that is new or useful. 

For the most part smartwatches deliver notifications and act as a hand-off to mobile phones. Given people are rarely more than a few millimetres from their phones, that functionality borders on pointless.
Meanwhile, the health and fitness applications are covered off by a separate, lower-cost  class of device. IDC defines a smartwatch as a wearable device that can run third party apps. Fitbit devices don’t qualify.
Today’s smartwatches have tiny, hard to read displays. Entering data is near impossible. Battery life is pathetic. Integration with other devices is far from perfect. It’s not difficult understanding why they don’t sell. 

Whether that can change over time remains to be seen. For now they remain a freak show, a geek ghetto that even hardcore geeks often choose to avoid.

11 thoughts on “Smartwatches a geek ghetto

  1. No. Which prompts the question: How cheap would they need to be for sales to take off? Whatever the answer, it will be well under the break even point.

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  2. andrew mcmillan: Apple Watches are maybe a geek ghetto, but my LG G watch, despite being the cheapest and crappiest Android Wear watch available has still managed to become important enough to me in my daily life that I will buy a replacement when it dies. This from someone who gave up on wrist jewellery in about 1983.The most useful unique app that I have for the watch is the one that tells me what time the next train leaves from the nearest station, but the ability to read and reply to email, sms, chat, etc without pulling out my phone is also useful from time to time. via plus.google.com

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  3. I’m not an iPerson, so can’t comment on Apple Watches (other than, if they’re Apple-branded, it’s a no-brainer that they will be overpriced).

    I have a Garmin smartwatch, for which is prime use is notification from the phone (allowing prioritisation of when to actually pick up my phone to respond to an email, with phone battery savings part of that deal), along with a golf GPS app for when I am on the golf course.

    I have not worn a watch at all since I started using smartphones (2004), but the Garmin answered a specific need/want for me.

    However the battery life is crap (1 week, with an additional charge required if I use the golf app).

    The positive here though is that it is fairly quick on the recharge cycle…

    But for my upcoming overseas trip, rather than carrying an extra charger, I have opted to resurrect my old G-Shock…

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  4. Teenagers don’t wear watches – they rely on a phone….they further argue…why wear a smart-watch when I still have to carry my phone…pointless exercise of manufacturers to try and make sales to a generation that don’t/won’t wear their product. Basic market research really.

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  5. I have the LG G watch R, and I find it really good. Most of the time I am just using it as a watch, with the notifications on it, which I quite often would miss on the phone with it in my pocket. Also being able to go “ok google, start a timer for 40mins”, works really well.

    My wife now has a smart watch also, the Huawei one, and she uses it to play music directly to bluetooth headphones. She does this while she is cleaning at a company, so that she doesn’t have to carry her phone around with her, and the watch it also water proof to a degree. That does chew the battery for her thou. the 2-3 hours of playing music takes about 50% of the battery.

    With my watch, I get around 36-48 hours per charge, but I don’t find that an issue as I drop it on the charger at night, and in the morning it’s all ready to go and I haven’t had to even think about the battery level.

    If I go anywhere for an over night, I will have to take the charger block with me, as it doesn’t use a standard connector, but it is small and as I have to pack a changer for my phone anyway, it isn’t really an issue for me.

    Fran.

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  6. i ditched my watch 20 years ago… but i’m now wearing a fitness tracker again. I want the telemetry, but not so bothered by having apps or emails etc. if i had music in my device i’d leave my phone at home and just run with the fitness tracker.

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