Charged Up: Niche wearables are not long for this world

Be prepared, we're about to turn a corner
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I adore niche wearables. They're often made by dedicated people who didn't see their needs fulfilled elsewhere so did it themselves, hoping that other people were also in their specific niche.

I speak to a lot of startups working on these types of devices, and often there is a genuine passion that comes through, paved with good intentions. Recent examples include Buzz, which is intended to stop sexual assault, or Talsam, which is all about making long-distance relationships easier.

Read this: 6 stories of life-saving wearable tech

But sadly, it feels like niche wearables like those aren't long for this world. That's because we're on the cusp of living in a very different wearable world. The time of niche players is over.

For about the past 10 months or so, we've heard the same song and dance from wearable analysts. Consumers are ditching basic wearables like fitness trackers and turning to smartwatches, which are all-in-one devices that combine apps, fitness, notifications and more. Leading the way here is Apple, which has seen the Series 3 become a massive success thanks to the addition of cellular.

The sad reality is that we only have two wrists, and what we're seeing is that people are opting for all-in-one devices that can give them everything over something more basic. Those all-in-one devices are also made by the biggest companies in the game, which have tremendous resources to co-opt any trending features on those niche wearables.

Have a wearable intended to protect someone? Better hope Apple doesn't add features to Emergency SOS. Aiming for high fashion? Fossil and its Wear OS-powered army would like to have a word.

These aren't the only two names to fear. Samsung seems poised to reintroduce itself to the wearable world with the Wear OS-powered Galaxy Watch, and there's also Fitbit, which seems to have struck success with the Versa.

There's an arms race among these companies to make their smartwatches as smart as possible. It's no surprise that Fitbit wanted an app store or that Garmin is releasing musically inclined wearables. Don't forget the march of Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Garmin Pay. They all see the writing on the wall: Offer everything or eventually offer nothing.

As people choose these all-in-one wearables for one wrist, it becomes increasingly unlikely they opt for a second wearable on the other wrist. Why invest in another wearable device that takes care of a niche need? Do you need that niche filled in your life that bad that you need to pluck down some cash to solve it?

The problem for niche wearables is that all-in-one smartwatches are built to be able to do mostly anything. But not to worry, as these smartwatches tend to have app stores. So once the niche hardware dies out, your niche software can live on, right?

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Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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