The past couple of years have jolted the tech community with the rapid rise of wearable tech, mostly in the form of the smart watches – this article will use the word wearable to describe any tech that is designed to be worn daily that has the capability of connecting to your phone. Initially starting with Fitbit and Garmin, mainstream tech companies have adopted this technology with the Apple watch, Samsung gear and now the release of Amazon’s new wearable the Halo. This article looks at the major players in the market and what might be to come…
Apple Watches have become one of the largest wearable technologies in the past 5 years, with the series one being released in early 2015. Now Apple watch has a 36% worldwide market share, showing how Apple have really gone after this particular sector. The newest Apple watch, rumoured to be released in the coming weeks, is claimed to bring stress and panic attack detection to a watch which already has an ECG imbedded inside it. This focus on wellness seems be moving wearables from the fitness geek device, into a more mainstream device which is there not only for your fitness goals but more generally for your health.
This move is corroborated by other features on the series 5 apple watch, including long overdue menstrual cycle tracking and noise exposure detection – which analysis if you are damaging your ears with exposure to loud noises. However, this does not mean they have cut down on the sports features, with a plethora of sports tracking options, from swimming to boxing; the most recent Apple watch doesn’t skimp. Another quality of the apple watch is the customisability of it. Moving it away from a sports tracking device to more of an everyday wearable, Apple have encouraged people to use different straps, made of metal or plastic, making an Apple watch more attractive for those who might’ve been a bit worried about wearing it in the boardroom.
Fitbit were one of the first big wearable companies which really focused on the boom in fitness savvy people. Founded in 2007, Fitbit has grown to one of the largest wearable companies falling behind only the big smartphone companies e.g. Apple, Xiomi, Huawei and Samsung. This has all lead to Google attempting to acquire them for $2.1 Billion, pending regulatory approval. Fitbit have lead the way in the inexpensive wearable market selling many devices for under £130, however, they also do offer a premium range of smart watches which are between the range of £200-300. The inexpensive devices are fitness trackers, which mainly track heartrate, sleep wellness and exercise, rather than the more complicated tracking found in the Apple Watch. However, the linked Fitbit app does analysis on sleep as well as menstrual cycle tracking and allows users to log food intake.
Fitbit have been hurt by the move to more wellness-based wearables having to release 2 new smart watches which are designed to compete with the Apple watch series 5. These are compatible with any device, meaning both Android and Apple, with both Alexa and Google Assistant built in. The smart watches have similar specs to the Apple watch series 5 however there is no mention of an ECG or noise monitoring which are USPs for the Apple watch. With the takeover from Google in the coming months, expect Fitbit to attempt to release many more devices, utilising Googles own Wear OS which could provide a direct competitor to the Apple watch.
Amazon have recently announced their new venture into the wellness and tracer industry with their Amazon Halo. The Halo is a fitness band which doesn’t have a screen at all, similar to some older Fitbit models, the only interaction you can have with it is via the app. This, however, does not limit the device. It is water resistant up to 50 meters allowing you to go swimming as well as having the unique features of body fat percentage detection and voice tone analysis. The Halo also combines with the smartphone app to provide body scans, allowing an even more accurate representation of body composition and health.
The most exciting part of the Halo is something Amazon calls Halo Labs. This is where Amazon have partnered with many third-party services to help you change certain health habits. These have been developed by partners ranging from Weight Watchers to Headspace allowing Labs to benefit everyone, not only those who want to lose some weight. Amazon Labs is part of a subscription fee of $3.99 a month, however, Amazon have promised to audit every single Lab released, with a need of “scientific evidence” for it to be available to users. This is a worrying sign for some of their competitors as when Amazon gets involved in a sector, they mean business…
As previously mentioned, Google are in the process of acquiring Fitbit which would bolster their strength in the wearables range. However, Google do currently have a strong presence in the higher end wearable range, where they provide OS to traditional watch makers who are looking to get in on the smart watch range. From Hublot to Tag Huer, traditional watchmakers are delving into the market of smart watches keen to grab hold of the market that both Apple and Fitbit are forgetting about. The high-end smartwatches. Most of the smartwatches that use Google’s Wear OS look like a classic watch, allowing those who like the look of a traditional watch to still reap the benefits of smartwatches. This coupled with the Fitbit takeover could allow Google to expand into the wearable market giving them the opportunity to gain market share and become a force to be reckonned with.
It is clear that wearables and companion devices are gaining popularity. Most people who obtain one are not fitness fanatics, but people intrigued by their own data, who want to understand a little bit more about themselves and their bodies. The wellness trend being championed by both Apple and Amazon has the potential to improve millions of lives, reducing stress and increasing fitness, yet the price range is still only accessible for the wealthy. In my opinion for wearables to become as important as phones, a smartwatch which has many of the features that an Apple watch contains needs to be developed at an affordable price, which could allow this sector to transform the world…