March 1, 2017 Last Updated 10:22 am

Are Americans wearing wearables? Young market shows great opportunity for growth

Guest column: ReportLinker survey finds Fitbit the most widely recognized wearables brand, but 64 percent of those surveyed still find no need for a wearable device

Without a doubt, wearable technology has made an impressive market entry with products like the Fitbit and the almost enigmatic releases of the smartwatch from Apple.  Even considering the popularity of the Apple brand, Fitbit was the most widely recognized wearables brand in a recent ReportLinker survey.   However, Apple products were a close second when prompted but was only recognized by 15% of the respondents when not prompted.  Fitbit has arguably managed to gain the greatest brand recognition in the wearables space.

Fitness trackers tend to be connected to a smartphone application. Among the 40% of Americans who said that they have a tracker app on their phones, 21% reported having a health tracker followed by 22% who have either a weight loss app or sport tracker app.  The greatest growth for this market would be among the 60% of respondents who do not use any form of tracker app.

Though the majority reported not using a tracker app, 57% were at least familiar with wearable technologies in general. Twenty-six (26%) reported owning a fitness trackers and 12% owned a smart watch. Of those who did own a wearable device, more than half owned a Fitbit and only 25% owned an Apple product. Less than 10% reported owning any other brand.

The seemingly consistent 60% who are familiar with wearables but do not own a wearable product or have a tracker on their phone are the key to the future growth of this industry.  Understanding who this population is will also assist in understanding how the technology may need to change and grow.  When respondents were asked if there was intent on buying a smartwatch or fitness tracker within the next year, 61% reported that they were not interested.

For those majorities who were not interested in buying any of the wearable devices, 64% said they did not have a need for one and 20% were satisfied with the functionality of their smartphone that they did not feel like they needed another device. Others reported that these wearable devices have limited functionality and bring about privacy concerns.  It is possible that those consumers who did not have an interest in buying a wearable prefer devices that have multifunctionalities as well as prefer to manage as little devices as necessary.  If the smartphones have some of the same functionalities as the wearables, then the majority of consumers will choose for their smartphone to do the job.

However, for those who do own a wearable, 47% said they use it for fitness tracking, 16% said they use it to make calls, 14% reported using it for health monitoring.  Therefore, it is also possible that those who do own a wearable may engage in more athletic and fitness activities where carrying a smartphone may be inhibitory.

Less owners use their device for health monitoring.  Their concern for data privacy may contribute to this low usage trend.  Forty-eight percent (48%) of respondents reported having a privacy threat concern regarding wearables.  Twenty-three (23%) reported having a concern for health risks when in continuous interaction with radiation from the device.

Though the market is still young, it has a great opportunity to grow as new products are developed to engage the once disinterested population.  Despite the slow growth, it is still estimated that the market will grow by 143% by 2020.

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