Watches or bands? The good, the bad, or just the ugly?

Airport LG G Watch R

In the wearables market at the moment, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Devices come in a wide variety of formats; watches, bands, glasses, even rings and pendants. And there are plenty more to come.

So which of these forms will push through and become the standard?

Market analysts have staunchly backed smartwatches as being the ones which will eventually, once the dust has settled, win out. Business Insider UK reports projections that by 2020 the total wearable market will consist of some 150 million units per year, and of these around 72% will be smartwatches, with fitness bands some way behind at about 20%, and all other wearables coming in at a mere 8% of market share.

This is perhaps to be expected, given that fitness bands have a very narrow remit, and smartwatches are expected to go on to serve an almost limitless range of increasingly useful functions as time goes on. The most likely scenario is that most people will own a main watch, and then some will have a cheaper ‘band’ as a runaround for those sweaty, early morning jogs and steamy showers at the gym.

Due to their relative simplicity and low manufacturing costs, fitness bands are currently coming along ten-to-the-dozen, myriad versions showing up everywhere you look. Most established players in the consumer electronics industry have jumped on to the bandwagon, and several newcomers have also got their prototypes popping up all over crowdfunding sites.

The sudden mainstream interest in this area has also spawned a plethora of cheap devices of the homogenous “Bluetooth Watch” variety to be found on eBay and discount websites, quietly swamping the market for smartwatches. And given that the more high profile devices are still in their relative infancy, one cannot really say that these units are significantly less useful than those of the bigger players. They all have a common, basic function-set, revolving around notifications, alerts and simple tasks. The more expensive smartwatches do much the same thing, they just do it a lot more ‘prettily’.

And in this rather haphazard mix, there is a real danger that any potential converts to the smartwatch scene will be at once baffled and deterred by the confusing state of affairs in the market. The major smartwatches are already perceived by an increasingly pragmatic and tech-savvy public as being too expensive for what they offer. People are no longer as starry-eyed about technology as they once were. People are now very accustomed to using it in some form or other day-to-day.

And along with this familiarity comes an ever-so slight hint of disdain. It becomes clear when one reads through readers’ comments in the mainstream press that this new medium ‘don’t impress them much’.

However, we only need to look back a few short years to see a very similar reaction when Apple unveiled its revolutionary (at least that was Apple’s spin on it) tablet computing device to the world. Along with the intense interest it generated, it also garnered more than its fair share of ridicule (in fact the reaction to Apple’s first smartwatch has actually been much more respectful in comparison). In the end though, this was the device which actually did go on to radically change the way many of us interacted with IT.

In time, the great and good of the wearable-tech scene will bubble-up through the mire. As people’s reliance on these devices increases, as they go from being convenient to being useful to eventually becoming critical, the demand for high-quality reliable products will become clear to everyone. And that is when the new standard will be set.