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article imageAre consumers and tech makers on the same page with wearables?

By Michael Essany     Oct 1, 2014 in Technology
Are wearable devices really the next big thing in consumer electronics? Or are hardware makers really behind all the hype?
According to the latest industry projections from Juniper Research published in September, smart wearable device shipments will quadruple by 2017, accelerating to 116 million units v.s. an estimated 27 million for 2014.
For 2015, the hottest anticipated wearable is Apple's recently introduced Apple Watch. But given its late market entry (the Apple Watch isn't expected to launch until well into the first quarter of 2015) sales projections for Apple Watch are being tempered with each passing week.
On Wednesday, Apple Insider reported that Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster now forecasts sales of 10 million Apple Watches in calendar 2015. These new "conservative expectations" follow a previous projection of 12 million sales during calendar 2015.
"Overall, we believe that the Apple Watch is light years ahead of any other smartwatch on the market, but consumer application may be limited initially until developers begin to create useful applications for the watch," Munster told investors this week.
In short, until Apple Watch and its offerings show their utility to the masses, its sales success may be muted.
Of course, the tenuous market conditions for wearables isn't stopping some eager and pioneering tech makers from jumping into the fray.
Just this week, Intel's Basis, announced the next generation of its fitness and sleep tracker. It's called Peak.
"With its larger screen, app notifications and incoming calls, texts and emails alerts, the $199 Peak is moving the product more in the direction of a smartwatch than a pure health and fitness device like Basis’ first wearable, the B1, released in December 2012," reported Forbes. "But it’s still first and foremost a health tracker."
But as Munster and others have postulated in recent months, it remains to be seen if consumers will draw a distinction between smartwatches and fitness trackers. To date, consumers appear far more interested in the latter, as illustrated by the buzz surrounding the Mettis Trainer.
mHealthWatch reporter Erica Barnes says fans of fitness trackers will appreciate products like Trainer because it doesn't obligate them to wear a clunky or expensive smart-device. For runners, this gizmo is simply a "sophisticated shoe insert with a corresponding app that informs the runner of each foot’s balance and pressure points for the purpose of correcting the way the foot strikes the ground," Barnes says.
So for runners looking for high-tech assistance on optimizing their runs and tracking progress, it's unlikely that Apple Watch would be a superior alternative in this case.
"What it all boils down to," Barnes concludes, "is how much hardware consumers wish to wear. And right now, I can't honestly say anyone has an accurate answer to that question."
But after 2015, we might.
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