A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

From Jawbone to Moto – the devices that changed the world
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When looking back on technology that shaped the decade, it was certainly one dominated by wearables.

It’s been one of the most pervasive new technologies of the “Twenty-Tens”, arriving at the dawn of the decade, and, as we enter the 2020s, has itself morphed, changed and rapidly advanced.

As we look at wearables now, things are dominated by just a few huge names. Apple owns nearly half of the market, and even the mighty Fitbit has been swallowed up by Google.

The start of the decade was one dominated by breakout entrepreneurship, crowdfunding projects and start-ups: and perhaps this could be the last major technology movement to spawn from such humble beginnings.

Jawbone UP

A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

Jawbone’s first wearable landed in 2011, hot on the heels of Fitbit – and the company rapidly rode the wave of fitness trackers.

The follow up was the immensely popular UP24, that made Jawbone look at unstoppable force in 2014. The UP2 landed in 2015 – although the company’s ill-fated Jawbone UP3 was part of the company’s downfall.

Fitbit Ultra

A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

While the Fitbit Tracker landed before the Twenty-Tens, the Fitbit Ultra landed in 2011 and brought a clock to the existing pedometer features. But the products rapidly dropped through the decade: 2012 saw the Fitbit One and Zip – but it was the Fitbit Flex that drove the wearable craze in 2013.

Fast-forward to 2018, the company moved towards smartwatches with the Ionic and then Versa – and was acquired Google in the twilight of the decade in 2019.

Withings Pulse O2

A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

It was 2013 that really saw the fitness tracker market explode, and the Withings Pule Ox was part of that.

With a HR sensor that could track blood oxygen from the finger, it was a feature that’s re-appeared on wearables in 2019.

Withings was bought by Nokia in 2016, which produced little other than re-badged devices. The company separated again in 2018.

Samsung Galaxy Live

A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

We’ve highlighted this device because it points to an interesting juncture in the history of wearable tech.

The Gear Live ran Android Wear (now Wear OS), before the company ditched Google’s operating system for its own Tizen OS. The move seemed bizarre at the time, but the company has maintained a strong market showing without Google’s assistance.

Another notable Samsung smartwatch that had a huge influence on the decade was the Samsung Galaxy S, which brought crazy features (including a full keyboard) into a cuff-like device, which was a precursor to the big features now found on the likes of the Apple Watch.

Special mentions also go to the Gear S2 and S3, which honed the company's smartwatch offering into a polished, desirable format which is still selling in big numbers today.


A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

Darling of the wearables market, no company represents the ebbs and flow of the decade more. Born via crowdfunding in 2012, the company’s smartwatch was a cult hit.

More Pebble smartwatches followed, but soon financial woes emerged that couldn’t be covered by sporadic crowdfunding campaigns, as Apple dominated the mainstream.

The company was bought by Fitbit, thus its DNA is now part of Google.

Apple Watch

A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

The Apple Watch was a mere rumour until 2014, but the persistent patents and leaks meant that it was only a matter of time. And when it finally launched in early 2015, it rapidly ate the market.

A significant milestone was Apple’s smartwatch quickly outselling Rolex and Tag Heuer to be the number one watch in the world – and by 2019 it had established a market share of over 50%, thanks to leading health features, ECG, GPS Apple Pay and cellular all in one package.

Moto 360

A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

After the boxy wrist computers of the first generation of smartwatches, the Moto 360 represented a shift towards desirability when it arrived in 2015.

Wowing us with its round face and metal body, the 360 certainly captured the hearts of the hungry smartwatch public.

The flat tyre at the bottom did ruin the allure, and subsequent follow-ups couldn’t significantly shrink the design, but, just to frame the decade, a new Moto 360 appeared at the end of 2019.
Unfortunately, this missed the mark with an enormous price tag, and, confusingly, no huge improvement in design from 2015. But it does serve as a reminder at how quickly the market moved on.


A decade in wearables: Looking back at the devices that shaped an era

If Pebble was the defining smartwatch darling of the crowdfunding community through the decade, Oculus was the VR equivalent.

After launching Kickstarter in 2012 with its first device - the Rift - Palmer Luckey's company raised $2.5 million on its way to shipping around 10,000 units.

Bought in 2014 by Facebook for a whopping $2 billion, Oculus would go on to compete heavily with HTC Vive for the remainder of the 2010s.

As we enter the dawn of a new decade, Oculus is as synonymous with VR now as it was in the early days, with the Oculus Quest helping pioneer standalone VR and the Oculus Rift S still giving hardcore fans of the space something to power from their PC.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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