Earlier this week Samsung revealed that it has sold over 800,000 Galaxy Gear smart watches since the device launched in September. This far outpaces analyst expectations for the Gear and gives hope to manufacturers that are looking toward wearable tech as a future growth market now that the tablet and smartphone industries are leveling off in established markets.
However, not everyone is convinced that current smart watches offer enough value to make them a hit with consumers. Market research firm Gartner today predicted that smart watches will not be a highly sought-after item this holiday season. The firm believes that the devices still do not offer enough to justify their currently high prices.
"Samsung and other well-known vendors have recently entered the smart watch space, yet the products we have seen so far have been rather uninspiring in terms of design, available apps and features," said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner. "As a result, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will remain a companion to mobile phones at least through 2017, with less than one percent of premium phone users opting to replace their phone with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet."
Gartner points to several factors that will need to change before the consumer market for smart watches opens up.
One obvious factor is the price for smart watches. Samsung currently retails the Galaxy Gear, a smart watch that only recently added support for pairing with more than one specific smartphone, for $300.
Another factor is the actual design of the devices. Gartner believes that current smart watch designs are bulky and uninspired, meaning that an Apple-style focus on design might be needed to effectively market such devices to the smartphone consumer base.
Yet another factor is that consumers simply don't care. Though this factor is also tied into poor design, the inability for current smart watches to operate effectively independent from a smartphone will make them accessories for high-end smartphones for a few years to come.
"Users expect more than just more convenience from a new product category that claims to be innovative and priced at $200 to $300," said Zimmermann. "The same price will fund basic tablets with a good feature set. For the coming holiday season users are more likely to pick the basic tablet option rather than a smart watch as the value proposition is clearer."