Wearable technology has been around for several years, gradually getting smaller and more ‘wearable’ but their uptake has been considerably slower than many envisioned. As advocates for wearable technologies, we wanted to give you the 6 ways that companies should look at getting people to like wearables.
When I think back to when the first iPod was released, I remember seeing musicians, actors and sports people using iPods. It put them in society’s consciousness. At the moment, wearables do not register within this same bracket. When I wear my Jawbone UP, people don’t say ‘that’s cool’ or ‘that’s stupid’, they simply say ‘what’s that?’.
The most effective way to get around this is through effective endorsements from the right people. Having aspirational celebrities photographed wearing this kind of technology will mean that it will appeal to those who respect these people, as well as increasing awareness in the media organisations that cover the actions of them.
Making these devices actually useful to people is vital to making people actually like wearables. One of the issues that many of the fitness trackers has is that it can accurately tell you how many steps you have taken, how you have slept, what kind of workouts you have done etc. But it will give you limited or no information about why this is good or bad.
The ability to effect people’s lives and make positive impacts is vital, why else would anybody pay for a product? The ability to pay, track or watch something on the go is the most important element. It goes back to the absolute basics of selling a product; what problem is this solving?
I have reviewed practically all of the major wearable fitness technologies of the past two years. This has meant that I have seen the developments from some of the major players from first generation to second.
Fitbit’s next generation was good, Jawbone’s second offering was great but Nike’s was very annoying to use.
Of the three companies, based on budget alone, most would have considered Nike’s to be the best, but they made the fatal flaw of overcomplicating their product.
Where their first Fuelband measured what was needed to be measured, the second generation included entering every kind of workout there could be, ‘tagging’ activities, so many options on the small LED screen that it became confusing and eventually, a band sat at the bottom of a drawer.
Making wearable technology is not just about the technological advancements that allow somebody to fit more technology in a smaller product, but making it as simple to use as possible. The Jawbone UP 24 (my favourite of the second generation fitness bands) does this perfectly. The band itself has one button and two lights (which only illuminate when you press the button). When you then upload your data to the app, it is displayed simply and allows your to do relatively complicated things in a simple way, but equally allows it to be used for basic measurements.
If this same principle was adopted for wearables across the board, it would improve how people perceive them.
This should go without saying, but actually making wearable technologies ‘wearable’ is something that not many companies have done. If I have something on my wrist and I need to take it off to write or type, then I won’t wear it for too long. If I need to wear something on my head, does it sit properly or stop me doing anything else? If so, it won’t last too long.
The idea of wearables should be to make what you do easier, there should not be any kind of hinderance of regular body movements. We have got to a stage now where wearable technology can literally be stuck to our skin like a sticker, it won’t be long until this is available to the general public but at the moment most of what they are forced to use is relatively cumbersome and awkward to wear.
Much like making wearable technology more wearable, making it discreet is key to any success that a technology has. Making it obvious can be embarrassing and make others feel awkward. Think about the Google Glass as a prime example. If you are sat opposite somebody wearing one whilst on a train, you have no idea what they are looking at, filming or reading whilst opposite you. In fact, they may be looking at their screen but it looks like they are staring at you. That is embarrassing, like looking at yourself in mirrored glass and not realising that there are several behind it.
Making wearables discreet is not about being embarrassed about having the product in the first place, but about making others feel more comfortable. The best products are discreet, for instance with the Misfit Shine, I was once asked why I wearing two watches, when one of them was in fact a fitness tracker. It makes it more subtle to use and people feel more comfortable wearing something that doesn’t draw attention to them.
Undoubtedly the most important aspect of any wearable technology is how it looks. The Google Glass in it’s original form is ugly and looks like a 1970s vision of what people would wear, rather than something that people would consider today. The reason that it hasn’t had widespread adoption is not because it is not a good technology, but because it is ugly.
In September Apple announced the Apple Watch, something that actually looks good and could break ground in the wearable market. It will combine both the practicality of a wearable device with the aesthetic appeal that Apple have had since Jonny Ive took creative control. It is therefore not because it is Apple as a brand, but because it Apple as a design aesthetic and concept, it is something that people want to have on their wrist because of how it looks and functions. We await to see whether this Apple Watch manages to follow the 6 points we have included above, but early evidence suggests that it may have.