Opinion

What Brits really think of wearable tech and how firms can spike adoption

6 min read

19 February 2015

Former deputy editor

British feelings towards wearable devices vary greatly, as some people think the technology is embarrassing and ugly, while others believe the gadgets make owners look intelligent and cool – here's what the UK's businesses need to consider.

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It’s clear the opinions on wearable devices are divided, but let’s first address the difference in technology and just how lucrative it can be.

Sara Murray – the founder of Confused.com – originally launched GPS-based tracking company Buddi to support child safety, but soon found another use case for the wearable devices and started supporting the care and security industries, which resulted in the firm securing new contracts worth £20m in December.

Then there’s Google Glass. The long-awaited and much-hyped set of $1,500 technology-laced spectacles were designed to offer everything from video calling, maps, web search, photography and more. However, the project was shelved in January 2015, despite developers and competition winners in the US buying their costly set of beta goggles back in 2013.

If you consider a price tag like $1,500, for example, you’re certainly not going to grab a mass audience that way, especially if the adoption is still in its infancy – even the sales phenomenons that are the iPhone and iPad are priced at roughly a third of that.

Meanwhile, fitness trackers and bands are seemingly the most commonly used and accessible form of wearables on the market today, with Nike, Adidas, Jawbone, Garmin and plenty of other selling the products.

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As a result, we’ve seen smartwatches also enter the market – glorified fitness bands with additional functions that differ from model to model, but usually they’ll include a limited selection of apps, photography, and essentially serve as an assistant to their smartphone masters.

Taking all of that into consideration, research from Apadmi has found what UK businesses need to do to encourage a surge of wearable adoption among Brits, and also how the latter actually feels about the attachable technology.

Frankly, for the most part, it doesn’t look good if companies aren’t willing to take consumer feedback into consideration.

Over a third at 35 per cent of people said they would feel embarrassed or self-conscious if they wore the tech, while 34 per cent said the take made people look like an attention seeker, and 32 per cent said it made people look ridiculous. Even more insultingly, 17 per cent added wearables made people look unattractive.

It’s not all bad though, there are some fans out there – one-fifth felt that wearables made people look intelligent and successful, while ten per cent would feel cool wearing the technology, though just eight per cent felt that gadget-based accessorising made the wearer look attractive.

In spite of the negativity, research found that 6.1m, Brits are set to own one of the devices by September 2015, up from 2.8m owners in 2014 – that’s equivalent to adoption doubling to 13 per cent of the population from six per cent.

“Wearables are entering the market thick and fast but we’re already seeing early adopters abandoning them. This is down to many of the reasons highlighted in our research but also because the app experience is not satisfying users,” said Howard Simms, co-founder and director at Apadmi.

Read more on the wearable market:

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Businesses are urged to make the devices more desirable for the good of the marketplace, and while people will happily camp out for a new iPhone, that’s not going to happen with wearables if they’re still unsatisfactory. That means making them easier on the eye, but also genuinely useful.

Simms added: “It’s essential that businesses don’t just build a wearable technology app for the sake of it, rather they build an app that is genuinely valued by its users. This will make wearable technology more appealing to consumers and, in the long-term, benefit everyone working in this exciting growth sector.

“If developers take the public’s concerns into account and create more desirable apps and devices, uptake of wearable tech devices should continue to improve.”

Some direct recommendations that will help developers and business thrive from British consumer adoption include staying on top of tech developments, but also the fashion industry to ensure they’re ahead of the curve rather than being behind before they’ve got started.

Additionally, firms are advised to get the innovation and cost right before trying secure to high-profile fashion endorsements and branding, such as that of the Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Shirt.

Simms added: “We want the business community to understand what the wearable technology industry is capable of, where it’s heading, and most importantly what consumers really want, which is why we created this report. However, we hope that the report will have a much broader appeal than this, providing insights that will also be useful to the rest of the wearable technology supply chain, including device manufacturers, app developers and marketers.”