Are Wearables Over? The Guardian Spouts Nonsense

One of the less attractive traits of the media — and we say this as having been part of it for more than 35 years — is its tendency to tear things down that it’s only recently hyped. It’s good for newspaper sales and works well as clickbait, but does little to actually inform anyone. In most cases, in fact, that kind of reporting is sort of the opposite of information because both the build-up and the debunking are distortions beyond recognition.

This week, the Guardian ran a story reporting that there are a lot of Samsung Gears for sale online, and quoting an analyst as saying that a third of all fitness trackers are abandoned after six months. This is taken as evidence that the public is rejecting wearable technology. And sure enough, the article has hit the ecosystem and is being reblogged widely, in the process becoming, in Steven Colbert’s wonderful coinage, truthy.

The article doesn’t mention that the Gear was a terrible product, a fact that’s been more or less acknowledged by Samsung itself. (A new and much-improved version hits the streets this month.) Bad products happen to even good companies.

But let’s talk about this abandonment issue. Do we believe the figures? Sure. But in the context of greater healthcare product abandonment, losing only a third of the purchases after six months is actually a huge win. It turns out that two-thirds of people with gym memberships never use them at all. Gyms aren’t over. We couldn’t find stats on how many home treadmills or Nordic Tracks have found their highest utilization as clothing racks, but <ahem> anecdotal evidence suggests that the number is high. Home fitness equipment isn’t over either. (We just checked; there are 3,400 used treadmills for sale on eBay right now.)

Two-thirds of fitness trackers are still being used after six months? Sweeeet.

Three months ago, at CES, the media was talking like wearables were going to take over the world next week and that we were all going to be quantified self zombies by Easter. Today, we’re hearing that these things are clunky and useless, and people are rejecting them and early adopters are tired of them.

Neither is true. All of it’s predictable.

Remember the Hype Cycle? It’s a tool that Gartner uses to track the adoption of new technologies. Wearables are more or less at the peak of the hype that all tech products go through, and we’re probably going to see a lot of stuff similar to the Guardian article for the next few months.

But Qualcomm’s put $100 million into a wearables fund. Intel just spent that on Basis Science, and Microsoft did too on Osterhaut. Apple, it appears, is jumping in and so is Samsung. VCs everywhere are chasing this market.

Yeah. Sounds like it’s over to me, too.


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  1. It would be interesting to know how many units were on eBay only because the owner had moved on to a better device. That would put the abandonment rate, in the sense of people abandoning the category, lower than a third, potentially a lot lower.

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