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The Latest Smartwatch Trends

By SiliconIndia   |   Wednesday, 14 June 2017, 07:23 Hrs
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A year or two ago, people thought smartwatches were just a fad. Last year even saw some serious profit declines for smartwatches during the third quarter. According to IDC, a financial data analyst firm, smartwatch sales in 2016 saw a dramatic 51.6 percent decline. The highest loss was suffered by Apple and Lenovo, two of the biggest smartwatch makers. Some predicted that smartwatches would go the way of the Blackberry: popular for a while, but ultimately not what the consumers really wanted. However, despite a dip in sales, companies continue to invest in smartwatches.



Following the disappointing and rather alarming sales figures of the previous year, wearable makers are rethinking the smartwatch. The challenge is to make the smartwatch something more than just another smartphone synced device. As a gadget, the smartwatch has some inherent weaknesses: the small screen is not suited for anything more than reading time or getting a notification, poor battery life compared to regular watches, smartwatches with better utility are also bulky, and most features on smartwatches directly compete with fitness trackers. Smartwatch makers are now moving towards overcoming these changes and marketing this particular wearable gadget as something that’s actually “cool,” despite what John Oliver says.



The newest trends in smartwatch design seem to reflect this general turn in the market. Here are some of the things that newly released or about to be released smartwatches have that previous releases largely overlooked:



High Fashion



Smartwatches are the realm of tech companies like Apple and Samsung, not fashion companies like Fossil or Michael Kors. And yet, a number of fashion brands—including Movado, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, and Armani—are releasing smartwatches this year. The reason is simple: consumers want smartwatches to be fashionable.



Watches were traditionally popular among consumers not just as time keeping devices, but also as fashion items. Among men, watches take the top spot for jewelry. Watch brands, like Rolex, have long been a status symbol among male consumers. Women, too, go to painstaking lengths to purchase fashionable watches that go with many different outfits. This is a basic understanding of the watch market that tech companies have failed to understand. Smartwatches have “watch” in the name of the gadget. So consumers expect a timekeeping device that is technologically advanced, but just as fashionable as the regular thing, or even more so.



Part of the reason legacy smartwatches like the Apple Watch has stumbled in the markets is because these watches, simply put, look ugly. The Apple Watch is designed to emulate the sleekness of the popular iPhone. Most smartwatches in the same price range are designed similarly as tech gadgets, not wearable jewelry. While people won’t mind wearing a bulky, dark, sportswatch-style smartwatch when jogging, they won’t tolerate the same style when going to work or dinner parties.



Consumers expect to wear smartwatches throughout the day just like regular watches. That means wearing the smartwatch through several daily occasions, like business meetings, lunch with friends, or going out to dinner. That is the most obvious reason why smartwatches need to look like regular watches while having the utility of a high-tech gadget.



The new and upcoming smartwatch releases by luxury fashion brands follow this logic. Michael Kors is reassessing Access smartwatches Sofie and Grayson, for women and men respectively. Despite being smartwatches, Sofie and Grayson devices look a lot like regular high-end watches, despite having completely digital watch faces. Even traditional luxury watch makers are following this trend. In the future, consumers can expect to see more and more classic looking smartwatches, and far fewer Apple Watch style ones.



MorePersonalization Options



The thing about fashion is that each consumer has his or her own quirks when it comes to taste. Smartwatch makers are picking up on this trend. The latest Fossil smartwatches are now available with dozens of new watch bands. Some come for free with the original purchase. Customers who want more can opt to purchase different styles later. Of course, older smartwatch makers like Apple used to offer different strap options. However, new releases are offering strap options for with different styles, colors, sizes, and occasions in mind. Smartwatch models in the future will very likely be released with similar customization features.



One favorite feature smartwatch consumers have always liked is the ability to change the watch face. Most models now offer hundreds of downloadable watch faces as well. The typical thinking in the tech world when it comes to smartwatches used to be that people would want better utility with better functioning apps. That’s actually what people want with smartphones, not watches. When it comes to the smartwatch, aesthetics usually take precedent. In the future, expect smartwatches to mirror the luxury and style of Rolexes or similar brands, not the utility of a smartphone.



Smaller Models



No one wants to wear a bulky smartwatch on their wrist. It’s unstylish and also uncomfortable. So smartwatch makers are veering towards making their products smaller. Smartwatches are a hard sell for women, particularly because the products tend to be bulky and have masculine looks. Women’s watches are traditionally smaller and shinier. New entries to the smartwatch brand, like Kate Spade, are now making smaller smartwatches aimed at women.



The trend is moving towards offering the same smartwatch model in different sizes. Some women like bigger watches too, and some men prefer smaller watches. The tastes vary, and smartwatch makers are racing to cater to everyone.



Affordability



Another important change of attitude to watch out for in the smartwatch market is catering to budget users. Smartwatches typically cost over $200. Cash-strapped consumers may forgo owning a smartwatch, even if they really wanted to, because of the price. Some budget brands, like Starrybay, are continuously releasing products aimed at this market. Now consumers can buy a smartwatch for as little as $100.



Budget smartwatches do not yet have the recognition high-end brands have, but these brands have managed to attract cult followings. Pebble is the biggest of these budget cult brands, which was acquired by Fitbit last year. Budget consumers should not hold their breath however. While some products may be affordable, the smartwatch market is moving towards designing more good-looking luxury products.



All in all, tech companies are realizing that smartwatches must align with the watch market in order to move inventory. Consumers prefer aesthetics for smartwatches over utility, much of which they can already receive from smartphones. People would rather have a smartwatch on their hands that’s stylish and easy to personalize. Fashion brands, if not tech, are picking up on these preferences. Thanks to that, the smartwatch market may not be dead just yet.



About the Author



Eduardo Bridges is a former software engineer who now blogs about buying budget gadgets online. 



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