Wearable woe


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Has wearable tech had its day?

Winchester Nordic WalkersPicture copyright Nordic Walkers / Fb

With the click of poles and a decided stride, the Winchester Nordic Strolling group is a particular sight as its members pound the Hampshire countryside.

The day I ran into them, all however one was utilizing some type of health tracker.

A number of Fitbits, a Garmin smartwatch, a few telephone apps and one primary pedometer - and all, they claimed, have been roughly counting the identical paces.

"Earlier than I had a watch it did not hassle me, now I've received one I hate being with out it," stated group chief Linda Bidder.

Christiane Livingstone oversees Nordic strolling teams across the UK.

"Health trackers (of all types) are extremely fashionable in my teams," she stated.

"Individuals like to understand how far they've walked and even compete with one another."

And but the wearables market has had a rollercoaster experience in current months.

Picture copyright Getty Photographs
Picture caption The Fitbit model is in style however has reported slower gross sales

This time final yr analysts have been making multi-billion greenback forecasts for the builders of well being trackers and smartwatches, and Apple was boldly promoting a $10,000 gold version of the Apple Watch.

However by November 2016 Smartwatch shipments declined by 51.6% year-on-year, based on a report by market analysts IDC.

Jawbone, as soon as a well-liked health tracker model, confirmed to TechCrunch that it's leaving the buyer market and specializing in healthcare suppliers.

Microsoft has eliminated its Health Band on its on-line retailer (though it's nonetheless out there on retail big Amazon) and crucially no longer provides the Band developer kits.

Fitbit stays a key model identify on the coronary heart of the health tracker revolution - and it acquired one in every of its rivals, the Pebble Watch - nevertheless it was lately reported to be shedding employees, and founder James Park stated the agency skilled "softer than expected" sales during the recent Christmas period.

10,000 steps

Numerous units declare to measure coronary heart price, sleep, exercise and rely energy.

Counting steps might be the most typical use of wearable units - however lately specialists have questioned whether the golden goal of walking 10,000 steps a day is actually worthwhile, and a US research concluded that health trackers did not aid weight loss.

Analyst Ben Wooden, from CCS Perception, was such a wearables fanatic that he nonetheless wears one on every wrist - however even he speaks extra cautiously lately concerning the sector general.

"The truth is these units have stalled within the market," he informed BBC Radio four's You and Yours programme.

"Lots of people have gotten them, lots of people like them however the spectacular explosive progress that we anticipated hasn't actually occurred."

Picture copyright Ben Wooden
Picture caption Ben Wooden (proper) was interviewed by Peter White from BBC Radio four's You and Yours programme

Ben Wooden thinks there's an engagement challenge - after some time these units do not inform you something new.

There's additionally the battery situation, and the truth that most of the older and cheaper varieties aren't water-proof.

Moreover, Simon Bryant from Futuresource says many wearables aren't but unbiased sufficient and depend on being tethered to a smartphone, or replicate a performance, similar to step counting, that the handset already has.

Nevertheless Mr Bryant believes that whereas wearables could also be down, they don't seem to be but out.

"We really feel the slowdown is short-term and the market will speed up this yr," he stated.

He thinks that improved energy, look, and cellular pay choices might give them a lift alongside a maturing consumer group.

Issues do look like wanting up. Sales figures for 2016 just released by IDC point out 25% market progress year-on-year, with Fitbit taking the most important share - adopted by price range model Xiaomi.

Picture copyright Garmin
Picture caption In response to one report Garmin shipped 6.1 million wearable units in 2016

One of many prime 5 sellers is Garmin, which has targeted on the devoted health market.

Theo Axford, senior product advertising supervisor at Garmin UK, informed the BBC that whereas the market had turn out to be "very aggressive" the agency had not skilled declining gross sales.

"Manufacturers should be sure that they're assembly the wants of the client and all the time delivering worth," he stated.

"While the entry area has turn out to be largely commoditised, clients which have purchased into the know-how as a primary foray into wearables at the moment are in search of, and demanding extra.

"The advocacy we have skilled for our units over a few years in what was a reasonably specialist market has now grow to be far more mainstream, and clients are in search of a model with the specialist experience and a legacy they will belief."

And what about smartwatches - as soon as feted as the last word smartphone accent with a number of monitoring features and apps?

Picture caption The primary version of the Apple Watch gave the market a lift

Ben Wooden argues that they're "an answer that is on the lookout for an issue" - however strong gross sales of the Apple Watch and Google's present rollout of a brand new working supply for Android-powered watches, Android Put on 2.zero, recommend the business has not given up on them but.

In December 2016 Apple CEO Tim Cook said sales growth was "off the charts" following the discharge of the Apple Watch 2 in September, and Android watchmaker Samsung confirmed the most important progress year-on-year in IDC's report.

"The sensible wearables market is altering," stated Ramos Llamas from IDC.

"Well being and health stays a serious focus, however as soon as these units develop into related to a mobile community, anticipate distinctive purposes and communications capabilities to develop into out there."

And this can permit them to make a bid for freedom, he believes.

"This may also remedy one other key difficulty: liberating the gadget from the smartphone, making a stand-alone expertise."