Wearables Week In Review

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Week In Review

Super Mario addresses a niche (of a niche?)

Tag Heuer has launched a limited-edition Super Mario edition of its Connected smartwatch ($2,150). In collaboration with Nintendo, the watch will feature Mario in various animations and watch faces. According to Tag Heuer, Mario’s “upbeat and active personality will encourage wearers of this smartwatch to enjoy moving too.” That sounds like a stretch, to be polite about it, but perhaps the “carrot” of a happy Mario will be more effective than the “stick” of Apple’s active rings of shame?

The NPD Take:

  • It’s an odd collaboration, but since Tag Heuer is only making 2,000 of these watches, it will probably be a successful one as it tugs at our nostalgia and addresses our need for differentiation. And, when you are tired of Mario dancing around you can, presumably, persuade him to leave your interface and still have a very nice smartwatch.

Proper posture buds

Amazfit has launched its latest iteration of earbuds – the PowerBuds Pro – that are true wireless and, most importantly, come with features more usually found on smartwatches.  The buds use an accelerometer to detect your posture and if your neck has remained in the same position for too long, they nudge you to change position a bit. In addition, the buds can detect when you begin running and track your run time, speed, distance, calories burned and more, all of which can be synched with MapMyRun and RunKeeper.

The NPD Take:

  • The PowerBuds Pro are a logical – and long expected – advance for earbuds, pushing into the health and fitness category that has been dominated by smartwatches and trackers. But is it enough? Probably not for most active people for a couple of reasons: firstly, the smartwatch is something you wear all day – and night – long, so provide a more complete view of your activities. Secondly, watches allow you to stream music to your headphones, freeing you up from a smartphone when you run.
  • Having said that, Amazfit could bundle the earbuds with their smartwatch to provide a complete package at a low price to provide a competitive solution, and the real draw of the earbuds could be the posture management; especially as we all spend more time sitting in front of a computer than we do running.

Clinic on a wrist

UK-based Rockley Photonics has unveiled a wearable reference design that can track a range of biomarkers, including alcohol, glucose trends, hydration, core body temperature and blood pressure. The key to this announcement, however, is the fact that Rockley Photonics is a major supplier to Apple. That highlights the future health potential for Apple’s Watch, stepping it far beyond the current health features found on smartwatches today.

The NPD Take:

  • A reference design is a key first step on the path to a consumer-facing product, but is, of course, far from meaning a final product. As such, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see these new features in the next Watch (7) later this year. But it does mean that competitive smartwatch companies looking to focus on the health area need to make sure they are keeping up with the technology advances, or risk ceding the health-focused market to Apple
  • Of course, health and wellness have yet to drive a significant portion of the purchase decision. Currently, just 15% of the primary reasons to purchase a smartwatch are health related with fitness and tech-focused reasons driving the majority of decisions. One could argue that adding more health features will open up the market opportunity, particularly with the under-penetrated over 55 age group.
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