The consumer electronics industry has had a tendency to throw its weight behind trending products. For the better part of the last couple decades, we’ve seen the hot product turn from digital music players to smartphones to tablets as the market for each began to saturate. Now, a few years into the tablet boom, the industry is preparing to push a new trending item.
Earlier this month, Apple announced that they are throwing their hat into the smartwatch market with the launch of the Apple Watch in April. With Apple joining the likes of Samsung, Motorola, LG, and Sony, it seems clear that the consumer electronics giants intend to market smartwatches as the trending electronic gadget going forward. But will the smartwatch will be the next big thing or a sign that the big names in personal electronics are running out of truly innovative ideas?
Unlike smartphones and tablets, it isn’t as immediately obvious the added benefit a smartwatch can provide the user with. None of these watches seem to be intended as a smartphone replacement, but rather are designed to be a more convenient interface for functionality potential customers already carry in their pockets. With prices for entry-level watches hovering between $200-$350, the industry is going to need to convince consumers that that is a price worth paying in addition to their already expensive smartphones and tablets.
A large part of what drove smartphone sales were the nearly endless supply of apps from large communities of developers. If the development community embraces smartwatches the way it embraced smartphones, it could add enough value for consumers to make the plunge. Then again, developers will spend their time where they see the most value in spending it, and without enough early smartwatch adopters, it may not be enough to entice their efforts.
Regardless, the smartwatch seems to be what the consumer electronics industry is gearing up to throw its weight behind, and they are at least somewhat aware of the possible adoption issues. Apple also announced an 18k gold edition of their watch in apparent attempt to attract customers from the luxury watch market, and luxury watch makers are taking notice. Yesterday, Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer announced a partnership with Google, Intel, and HTC to create their own luxury smartwatch. If the industry can entice some early adoptors with deep pockets, it may be enough to spur innovation. Because these luxury watches will run on the same basic platform as their consumer-level counterparts, the platform as a whole could benefit. The real question is whether or not it will be enough to convince the average consumer to buy into it.