#Trending: The definition of smartwatches is changing

We thought we knew, but we have no idea
#Trending: The changing smartwatch

IFA 2017 is well underway over in Berlin, and the likes of Samsung, Garmin, and Fossil are announcing all kinds of new fitness trackers and smartwatches. On the periphery we've got Fitbit announcing its first smartwatch, Ionic, and the likely announcement of Apple Watch Series 3.

In the middle of all this, IDC dropped some interesting new numbers. It turns out that the wearable segment grew 10.3% in Q2 2017, year-over-year. Most of this was down to the tremendous growth of smartwatches, which leaped 60.9% year-over-year.

Wait, what!?

Right? It turns out we're in the middle of a pretty large transition in wearables. Fitbit and Garmin, the two big names in the fitness tracker world, saw shipments drop 40.9% and 6.6%, respectively for the year-on-year quarter. While smartwatch makers like Fossil and Apple saw huge growth at 217.9% and 40.9%, respectively.

What's wrong with fitness trackers?

Nothing's wrong with fitness trackers. It's just that, well, previously signature features like GPS, heart rate trackers and more are getting cheaper and easier to produce, which means it's much easier for manufacturers to slip them into slim smartwatches that have other features like advanced system-on-a-chip processors, storage, big displays and more.

Fitness trackers were a gateway to smartwatches, which can be more fully featured and do more things. They can advanced operating systems and apps and fuse them with progressively more advanced fitness features, giving users the best of both worlds. But we're reaching a point where you need to ask: why would you limit yourself to a simple fitness tracker?

Fitbit did just announce a smartwatch...

Exactly. One of the reasons Fitbit is trending in that direction is because sensors are small enough where it can stuff all these sensors into this slim form factor while giving you a more rounded out experience. You'll get your music, and your apps, but you'll get your heart rate and, hopefully one day, track atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea.

Look at the competition, too. Garmin's successor to the Vivoactive HR, a traditional looking fitness tracker, is the watch-like Vivoactive 3. Plus it, alongside fellow fitness tracker specialist Misfit, have announced the Vivomove HR and Misfit Command hybrid smartwatches that lean on fitness features.

Speaking of hybrids, what about Fossil?

Fossil is an outlier on the fitness front. Many of its smartwatches have basic step tracking and, well, that's pretty much it. What Fossil does really well is it fuses that technology with fashion. Look at something like the LG Watch Sport. Now look at something like the Emporio Armani Connected. Or Diesel On Full Guard. Or Michael Kors Access Sofie. If you're not good at fitness, you better be good at blending some serious fashion chops into your tech.

So everything is melding together?

That's the way the cookie is crumbling. With more and more smartwatches adopting fitness features, and less and less fitness trackers being sold, the smartwatch is becoming a different beast entirely. It's no longer just about being a portal to your notifications. Samsung definitely understood this with the Geat Fit2 Pro, which pretends to be a fitness tracker but has the features of a smartwatch with that dynamic screen and an ecosystem of apps plus notifications.

Elephant in the room time. Apple. What about them?

Apple is actually a good microcosm of this whole trend. When the company first announced Apple Watch, they sold it as a three-pronged idea: great at telling you the time, a fitness device and a communicator. They quickly learned that people took to the Apple Watch because it combined fashion and fitness in an one package, which is why seemingly half of Apple's watchOS updates now are to beef up its fitness abilities. And also why they release so many of those darned bands.

The smartwatch is everything. And nothing.

You don't have to be so dramatic! The smartwatch is changing. It's not what we thought it was, it's not even what manufacturers thought it was. The smartwatch is evolving into a device that people are willing into existence, an extremely personal device that's your ultimate fitness companion.

1 Comment

  • datalore says:

    Good read. It does look like the killer app for smartwatches is going to be fitness. The AW3 is going to be a fitness device I predict. Do you think the fitness tracker is a dead device walking, or will it survive a few more years? 

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