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Why One Third Of Wearable Technology Devices Are Being Abandoned

Photo courtesy of Karlis Dambrans via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic with icons from Wikimedia Commons.

Though most signs point to massive success in wearable technology in the near future, abandoned wearable tech devices serve as evidence that that time has not yet come.

Research from Endeavor Partners found that of American consumers who buy smartwatches or fitness trackers, one third abandon said devices within the first six months of ownership.

Further, of the one in ten Americans with fitness trackers, half were found to no longer use them. Ironic, isn’t it, that a device attached to your body is seemingly so easy to put down?

Anecdotal evidence of this abandonment can be seen in a cursory search on eBay for any first generation wearable device, for example, Android’s Galaxy Gear.

As of April 10, 2014, a search on eBay for Galaxy Gear (excluding add-on key words) yields hundreds of results, with “Buy it now” prices as low as $1.00.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 3.27.53 PM
Screenshot from eBay.com

Part of the problem with Galaxy Gear is likely that the product came bundled with the Galaxy Note, which some purchasers had no real need for, the Guardian says. Others purchasers were dissuaded when new versions of the product rendered their models outdated.

Why so unloved?

Why, then, are even high portions of the willing early adopters abandoning their devices? If research thus far finds that these devices “fail to drive long-term sustained engagement for a majority of users,” is this problem fundamental, or simply a timing issue?

There are several possibilities:

The devices are fragmented, not “smart” enough yet

Despite flurries of new wearable products, the devices are lacking in apps, as they all run on different platforms, Business Insider says. Google’s Android Wear may be a solution to this issue.

Until the arrival of a “killer” wearable-specific app, the word “smart” does not apply to limited functionality.

The technology is not replacing another, has yet to find necessity with users

MP3’s and smartphones saw the success they did because they were filling in for outdated technology that already was of daily value. The MP3 player replaced the CD Player, the smartphone replaced the clunky cellular device, both falling into long lines of tech upgrades.

The wearable device replaces nothing, making it less habitable.

Devices are clunky, novelty wears off quickly for the fickle human

Along the same lines, if early adopters are abandoning their devices the issue may be, too, that the incentive to keep using them wears off after several weeks of usage.

This could be partially because the design of available products is undesirable and obstructive. But more likely its that, right now, the technology is nothing more than novelty.

Until wearable platforms can turn novelty into necessity, they may be worn more often by boxes than wrists.

Jennifer Markert