Consumers split on what they want from smartwatches

So far, the Pebble Steel may come closest to offering consumers what they want from a smartwatch....

So far, the Pebble Steel may come closest to offering consumers what they want from a smartwatch. (Pebble)

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, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

New research shows that when it comes to smartwatches, what consumers want and what companies are offering are two different things -- especially when a potential owner is already a premium watch-wearer.

New research shows that when it comes to smartwatches, what consumers want and what companies are offering, are two different things - especially when a potential owner is already a premium watch-wearer.

All consumer groups appear to be agreed on how much a smartwatch should cost -- roughly $50-$200 US -- but when it comes to what it can do, and how the device looks, opinions are spit.

When it comes to consumers who wouldn't think twice on spending between $1,000 and $5,000 on a 'normal' wristwatch who were interviewed as part of ABI Research's latest report into the sector, a quality, fashionable look and feel plus voice command and control were top of the list of expected functions.

Yet despite not thinking twice about spending potentially thousands of dollars on a watch, they would find it hard to spend $500 on a watch packed with tech features, even if they were features that really made a difference.

In the other major consumer group identified by the research -- those who wouldn't be prepared to spend $500 or more on a normal watch -- the price point is the same. A smartwatch should cost up to $200 and for that they would expect text alerts, call alerts and caller ID display on the device as the killer features.

Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research, stated, "At present, smartwatch vendors are going for somewhat of a scattergun approach to smartwatch design. They are typically over delivering with 12 or more features per product and hoping that three of them stick. This recent research clearly shows that a more targeted, segmented and use-case driven approach to design is needed."

The research also shows that companies are going to have a tougher job in winning over existing watch wearers to something "smarter".

"It is clear that there may be some opportunity to attract a premium for purchasers that traditionally buy cheaper watches. However, the opposite is true for those that typically spend upwards of $500 for a regular watch where smart features are generally not seen as significant value-adds. The majority of consumers that spend over $1,000 for a regular watch indicated that their desired price point for a smartwatch was in the $50-$500 range," added Carlaw.

According to Vandrico Inc's wearable technology database, there are already some 38 devices announced or already on the market that offer smartwatch functionality, although the majority are focused on capturing or tracking information focused on fitness or motion tracking.

Vandrico's own research into the subject finds that based on the current choice of wearable devices on the market across all categories, the ideal device is wearable all of the time -- i.e. it doesn't have to be carried; offers the wearer full control; and "must augment knowledge, facilitate learning or enhance experience."

The smartwatch market is still in its infancy but so far, if ABI Research's figures are truly representative of widespread consumer sentiment, the device that currently comes the closest to meeting performance and stylistic needs is the Pebble Steel. Launched at the 2014 International CES, it combines quality materials and functionality and has its own dedicated app stores for both iOS and now Android devices.


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