The main problem affecting smartwatches is that lack of a killer app, a reason to make people say to themselves “I want a smartwatch so I can X”. Recently published research confirms the notion: most of the time, the bulk of Apple Watch users use it for telling the time + receiving notifications. Given Apple Watches start at $500 (at least in Australia), that seems like a lot of money with which to replace one’s own perfectly working watch with a short lived one from Apple just for the sake of receiving notifications!
That said, receiving notifications to the watch is a big deal, I can tell you that! It never occurred to me how important it is till PAX. I visited PAX with friends, and during the course of the day we often split up and later regroup. Throughout the day we communicated with one another over Signal messages. I never heard my phone ring nor feel it vibrate that day; but I did not miss a message and always knew exactly what my friends were up to. That was achieved with the aid of my never-miss-a-notification Pebble watch.
The beauty of it was us taking all of the above for granted. Only later did we realise we were totally dependent on our Pebbles. Or, in other words: we reached the stage where life without a smartwatch would feel like some sort of a Stone Age experience.
Now I will admit to having a love/hate relationship with my Pebble. It costs a fraction of an Apple Watch, its battery usually lasts me four days [insert standard deviation and note the Pebble Round model last “up to two days”], and it is very water proof [with the notable exception of the new Pebble Round being only splash proof]. But the Pebble is also clearly made using lowest bidder grade cheap components: over the past year, two had died on me (both had screen problems, one also had Bluetooth issues) and another is suffering from inconsistent battery performance that reeks with that “soon to make a warranty call” stench.
However: at per their current prices, one can buy a Pebble once a year, as per the duration of their manufacturer’s warranty, and still come out spending much less than one would on Apple Watches.
What could change this equation?
The appearance of a new killer app. If the current killer app for the smartwatch is notifications, I predict the next one would have something to do with health. As I said here before, I will gladly pay for an Apple Watch if it could warn me to rush to a hospital due to an imminent heart attack. It would be even better if the watch gave me that defibrillation hit that kept me running all the way to that hospital.