Tag Archives: wearables

The Apple Watch outsold every other wearable last quarter

Apple might not be selling as many iPhones as it would like, but it sounds like its Watches have been doing quite well. According to Strategy Analytics, it shipped 3.5 million wearables in the first quarter of 2017, 59 percent higher than the 2.2 million devices it did in the same period last year. Cupertino captured 16 percent of the global marketshare and stole the wearables crown from Fitbit, which had a much less stellar quarter. Fitbit only shipped 2.9 million devices in Q1, 36 percent less than the 4.5 million units it moved in the first quarter of 2016. Even Xiaomi sold more devices, putting the beleaguered wearables-maker in third place.


Those results are consistent with Apple’s latest earnings report. The company said its Watch and TV sales jumped up 31 percent year-over-year, and head honcho Tim Cook said Watch sales have nearly doubled since last year. Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics executive director, said Apple’s Watch Series 2 has been selling well “due to enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence.”

On the other hand, there’s less and less demand for Fitbit’s bands, perhaps due to the increasing number of sports-oriented smartwatch options for buyers, among other factors. Its attempt to enter the smartwatch market was also late and quite underwhelming. While Fitbit still sold the most wearables late last year, it was already in trouble by the beginning of 2017. It had to cut 110 jobs in January, which might not sound like much but is still 6 percent of its workforce. In an attempt to recapture part of the market it lost, Fitbit is reportedly preparing to release a new smartwatch and a pair of wireless headphones in the fall.




Apple Named World’s Largest Wearables Vendor With an Estimated 3.5M Apple Watch Shipments

Apple became the world’s largest wearables vendor in the first quarter of 2017 with an estimated 3.5 million Apple Watch shipments, according to new research data shared this afternoon by Strategy Analytics.

Apple Watch shipments overtook Fitbit shipments during Q1 2017, allowing Apple to capture 15.9 percent global marketshare to become the top wearables vendor. Fitbit shipped an estimated 2.9 million wearable devices during the quarter, while Apple’s closest competitor, Xiaomi, shipped an estimated 3.4 million wearable devices.

Apple’s estimated 3.5 million shipments are up from an estimated 2.2 million Apple Watch shipments in the year-ago quarter. As Apple Watch shipments have grown, Fitbit shipments have dropped sharply from an estimated 4.5 million units in Q1 2016.

Xiaomi is still close to Apple at 15.5 percent global marketshare, but has seen its shipment numbers slip while Apple’s have grown.

Unrecognizable woman holding wearable gadget
In the year-ago quarter, Xiaomi’s marketshare was at 20.9 percent, while Apple’s was at 12.1 percent. Fitbit, meanwhile, has dropped from 24.7 percent in Q1 2016 to 13.2 percent in Q1 2017.

Cliff Raskind, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Fitbit shipped 2.9 million wearables worldwide in Q1 2017, falling a huge 36 percent annually from 4.5 million in Q1 2016. Fitbit has lost its wearables leadership to Apple, due to slowing demand for its fitnessbands and a late entry to the emerging smartwatch market. Fitbit’s shipments, revenue, pricing and profit are all shrinking at the moment and the company has a major fight on its hands to recover this year.”

Apple does not share official Apple Watch sales numbers, instead lumping the device into its “Other Products” category that also includes the Apple TV, Beats products, iPod, and Apple-branded and third-party accessories, so Apple Watch sales numbers shared by various analytics firms are all estimates.

Revenue from “Other Products” was $2.87 billion during the second quarter of 2017 according to Apple’s recently released earnings report, up from $2.19 in the year-ago quarter. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple Watch sales have nearly doubled year-over-year.



Wearable tech in wellness programs increasing

More and more, employers are turning to the incorporation of wearable technology in wellness programs for employees.

That’s according to the Employer Guide to Wearables 2.0 from employer-facing health intelligence platform Springbuk. The three-part study reviews key preferences, features and implementation considerations of employers for wearables in corporate wellness programs.


In fact, use of such devices is up 10 percent from 2015 findings, with 35 percent of employers now using wearables in their workplace wellness program. Companies are turning to wearables not just to furnish participation and engagement data, the findings say, but also to make wellness programs more effective in lowering health risk and improving health outcomes.

Close to half of employer respondents — 48.6 percent — are considering purchasing devices for their employee population over the next twelve months, whether as a replacement for existing devices or a first-time purchase. And 60 percent cite “app usability” as the most important feature.

But because employers often have multiple vendors to deal with in a wellness program, other factors they consider important are connectivity between various wellness initiatives—prompting the study to consider “sync with a wellness vendor” in addition to other major features such as “long battery life” and “employer-facing dashboard.”

In its review of wearables, the study considers 21 different devices from 8 different manufacturers. Devices were tested to evaluate, among other criteria, each one’s user community; its ability to provide comprehensive reporting to employers; and what kind of overall experience it provides for the employee, including the device user experience, the app experience and the ability of the device to fit in with the life of the employee.

The five top-scoring devices are, in order, the Fitbit Blaze (scoring 94 out of a possible 100); the Garmin Vivoactive HR (89/100); the Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Surge (86/100); the Samsung Gear S3 and Garmin Vivosmart HR (85/100); and the Samsung Gear S2 (83/100).

More than half of employer respondents (54.6 percent) say their workplace wellness program is “metrics driven,” with the common metrics tracked including changes in health risk (62 percent), financial impact (58 percent) and improvements in clinical outcomes (53 percent). And they’re using the metrics and data from wearables, the report says, to build better, more effective programs; 44.1 percent of employers are using wearable device data in the strategic planning of their wellness programs.

“We’re seeing more employers turn to wearables not only to provide participation and engagement data, but increasingly to help move the needle on effectiveness of wellness programs in lowering health risk and improving health outcomes,” Rod Reasen, chief executive officer of Springbuk, says in a statement. Reasen adds, “The data provided by wearables can also create actionable insights about how to invest your wellness dollars next year.”



Fitbit investigates report of ‘exploding’ tracker

Dina Mitchell told ABC News that the Flex 2 began to combust on her wrist while she was reading a book.

“It burned the heck out of my arm,” she said.

Fitbit has said it is “extremely concerned” and is now looking into the issue, though it sees “no reason” for people to stop wearing the Flex 2.

Ms Mitchell said she quickly removed the tracker from her arm and threw it on the floor.

A doctor had to take small pieces of plastic and rubber out of the wound following the incident, she claimed.

“We are not aware of any other complaints of this nature and see no reason for people to stop wearing their Flex 2,” Fitbit said in a statement.

“We will share additional information as we are able.”

The batteries in many electronic devices are sometimes susceptible to overheating and have been known to catch fire or explode in other cases.

Last year, Samsung had to recall its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after the handsets were found to be prone to combusting.



Is Spotify working on a wearable?

Spotify is said to be exploring the launch of branded wearable, according to rumors floated by a “trusted source” at Zatz Not Funny. There’s little information out there at this early stage, though a job listing posted by the company does lend some validity to the project.

Based at the streaming service’s global headquarters in Stockholm, the position involves, among other things, “leading an initiative to deliver hardware directly from Spotify to existing and new customers; a category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles.”

The products listed offer some insight into what a device might entail – that last bit especially. Spectacles hit all the right notes for a hardware debut by a software brand, providing a template for what a product looks like when the stars align.

The product went beyond just hardware branding, filling in an interesting niche for the photo app by taking it beyond the confines of a smartphone. Hipster cachet and planned scarcity helped a bit, too.

Similarly, the Echo – and even the now-departed Pebble – point to some pretty grand ambitions for the device. Both served as proof of demand for new product categories. Which seems to imply that Spotify isn’t planning to simply slap its name on a fitness band and call it a day. Remember when Samsung branded MP3 players with the Napster logo? What’s that? You don’t?

Also worth noting from team Pebble is the Core. That product failed to surface due to the company’s own financial issues, as it was killed alongside the company’s new watches in the midst of FitBit’s acquisition of the startup. But the product at least pointed toward a category that has been neglected since hardware makers shifted focus away from MP3 players to smartphones.


Targeted specifically at runners, the device promised music playback and other functionality on a keychain, so people could leave their smartphone at home. We’ll never know how the product ultimately would have done, but it offered some interesting insight into how old product categories become new again as technology evolves.

Of course, the Core didn’t come anywhere near the promise of “affect[ing] the way the world experiences music & talk content,” but then, how often has a job listing really lived up to its promise? My first job out of college as an “editorial assistant” was 95-percent shipping boxes. But hey, I’m not bitter.

We’ve reached out to Spotify for comment on the listing/rumor, but I don’t really anticipate hearing much more than what’s already out there. This could well just be the early exploratory phase into the company’s “world affecting” hardware, and even without it, the job description points at integration with “fully-connected hardware devices,” and certainly the streaming company has been working hard to bring custom experiences to third-party products.

That alone would likely keep a new recruit busy for a while.


Is Spotify working on a wearable?

Designers Are Hacking Women’s Health With Wearable Tech

These high-tech pendants do more than track physical activity and sleep like regular fitness devices. They can keep tabs on users’ mental health by monitoring physical symptoms of stress and track their menstrual cycles, too. Having a wearable that charts menstruation is a big deal for women who are trying to understand their fertility, from ovulation to pregnancy — and the inability of past devices to do so has been a notable weakness of the quantified-self movement.


For mental health concerns, the device goes the extra mile, connecting to a corresponding app with guided meditation exercises and data timelines that help users plan to proactively manage stress.


According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder than their male peers. Translating health data into actionable insight is a huge part of what makes Leaf Urban so popular. “It teaches users how to take control of their body and their health,” Srsen says. “We arm the users with better understanding. It’s about getting back in touch with your body. It’s not about being skinny or whatever.”

These high-tech pendants run from $119 to $189 apiece. They feature a minimalist leaf design and can be worn as part of a chic wrap bracelet, a necklace, or as a brooch. Srsen says Bellabeat was one of the first companies to focus on women and wellness in an industry dominated by athletic smart watches with a “one size fits all” mentality. She believes stylish design is crucial to making wearables effective, because frequent wear provides more comprehensive data. “You can only achieve that if the user enjoys wearing it,” Srsen points out. “I think the direction wearables are going is they are becoming more a part of our style.”


In a broader sense, the future of wearable devices for health will probably be defined by textiles — clothing, instead of just accessories. “If you integrate these devices into textiles, you suddenly have the entire surface of the body to work with,” says Amanda Parkes, chief of technology at Manufacture NY, a fashion incubator that specializes in high-tech research and development. TheNew York Times described Parkes and her co-founders as “the sharp point of the wearables spear… like Charlie’s Angels, if the angels had thrown off the patriarchy and gone out on their own.” Like the startup industry at large, wearables are still largely made by men, for men.

“It’s changing slowly because a lot of the industry models use outdated information when looking at market shares,” says Joanna Berzowska, head of electronic textiles at the smartwear brand Omsignal. “The other problem is inherent sexism in the venture capital world… often when there were good ideas for women’s products, it was harder for them to raise money.”

Despite the general sausage fest, a growing number of women, like Parkes and Berzowska, are getting involved with wearable startups. They are bringing a new sense of possibility to the industry as a whole. “Yes, more women might be joining. But what you’re seeing is that wearable devices need differentiation,” Parkes says. “Tech does need fashion to make better products… they are trying to reach across the aisle more on both sides. It was kind of a wakeup when Fossil bought [fitness tracker brand] Misfit.”

Tech-savvy fitness brands like Omsignal are looking to prove their products are more than just gadgets; they can be healthy fashion innovations. Omsignal was one of the first wearable brands to prioritize women and collaborate with a major fashion label. In 2014, the same year the company launched, Omsignal teamed up with Ralph Lauren to develop athletic polo shirts with biometric sensors for the men’s U.S. Open tennis championships. Nevertheless, the brand’s primary focus is the Ombra, which incorporates the same sensors into a sports bra. The company reportedly raised $20 million to develop this product for women.

By placing the biometric sensor directly on the breast, rather than the wrist, the Ombra can measure factors from respiratory function to heart wave variability. This allows the corresponding app to personalize workout recommendations in real-time, for example, if the user is hungover or sleep-deprived. Even so, developing a high-tech bra is more complicated than a polo shirt, because boobs bounce around when the user works out. The bra needs to hold the user’s breasts in place, close to the sensor, without squishing them or restricting movement.



Warren Buffett gets into wearable technology

From smart bracelets to smart engagement rings, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is getting into wearable technology. Richline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire, is launching a smart-jewelry line called Ela.

With Apple’s smartwatch gaining traction despite initial doubts, and brands like Fitbit firmly established, wearables is becoming a crowded space buzzing with competition. Apple’s watch has turned the tech giant into the second largest watch brand in the world behind Rolex based on 2015 worldwide watch sales.

Executives at Richline are encouraged by Apple’s strides and optimistic they can succeed. “As a whole the company has really found that the tech space is no longer a category that can be ignored,” said Cliff Ulrich, product innovation manager for Berkshire Hathaway’s jewelry wholesale division, Richline. “It’s kind of now almost a utility.”

“Jewelry is a centuries-old business that isn’t going anywhere, so it’s a safe bet. With the addition of technology, we’re simply updating something everyone knows and loves to better fit our modern age,” Warren Buffett said in a statement.

Richline isn’t trying to compete with Apple or Fitbit by creating a prettier step tracker that offers texts and Facebook messages on your wrist. “We’re focusing on a different customer,” says Ulrich. “Someone who doesn’t want to strap a screen to their wrist, but wants to continue to wear jewelry … and feel more connected to people in their lives.”

The Ela line will launch initially with four different bracelets featuring Italian marble quartz stones in the center with bands ranging from 18-karat gold plated to leather.

The smart bracelet, which is compatible with Apple iOs and Andriod, connects to your phone via Bluetooth and alerts you when someone is calling or texting by glowing. You can assign different colors for up to eight different people in your phone. For instance, if you assign the color red to your mom’s phone number, the bracelet glows red when she calls or texts. But you can only stray 25 feet from your phone before losing connectivity. The device also stores pictures and tracks steps; but since there’s no screen you’ll have to check the Ela app on your phone to view photos or steps walked. Think of it as a modern day locket. The bracelet is for someone who wants to maintain fashion, but wants unobtrusive notifications for phone calls from people who are most important to them.

But a veteran tech analyst is skeptical the product will perform well. “Sounds far-fetched to me,” says Paul Meeks, chief investing officer for financial management firm, Sloy Dahl and Holst. “Buffett rarely invests in technology; and besides Apple’s stock, his track record [on tech] has been poor. I don’t use him as a credible fashion or tech source regardless of his investment success.”

And the competition is fierce. A brand called Ringly offers a similar concept to Ela with bracelets and rings that retail for $245 and $195 respectively. Ringly’s jewelry similarly connects to your phone via Bluetooth and gives you customized mobile alerts through vibration and a subtle color-coded light. However, Ringly doesn’t offer the variety of designs and assortment of materials as Ela. Michael Kors also offers fashionable smart bracelets, which range in price from $95 to $195 — though the bracelets only track your steps and sleep. The bracelets don’t alert you to phone calls and texts.

Richline expects to experiment with more materials and branch out from bracelets into different categories from rings to necklaces. “We’re watching the technology get so small that even now we can put a very tiny chip in your engagement ring and probably keep the entire memories of your wedding vows, wedding ceremony or the moment he proposed to you,” says Joel Schechter, executive vice president of Richline who also oversees the division’s pearl line.  

Ela will be available in Macy’s, Amazon and independent jewelers starting in April. It will retail for between $195 to $295 a piece. That compares with an Apple watch with comparable basic features to Ela that retails for around $260 and Fitbit, which retails for $100. 



Google and Levi’s smart jacket shows what’s coming next for wearables

Google and Levi’s showed off this week a new joint project: a $350 smart jean jacket. While this jacket literally puts tech on your sleeve, it does it in a subtle way that doesn’t require putting another screen on your body. In doing so, it offers a glimpse of what smart fabrics can do and of the evolution of the wearables market — one in which consumers won’t have to wear a clunky accessory that screams high tech.

The smart Commuter jacket, which was introduced over the weekend at SXSW in Austin, is aimed at those who bike to work. It has technology woven into its fibers, and allows users to take phone calls, get directions and check the time, by tapping and swiping their sleeves. That delivers information to them through their headphones so that they can keep their eyes on the road without having to fiddle with a screen. The jacket should hit stores this fall.

Its smart fibers are washable; they’re powered by a sort of smart cufflink that you’ll have to remove when you wash the jacket. The cufflink has a two-day battery life.

While the idea of a smart jean jacket may not appeal to everyone (especially on a hot summer day), the existence of such a jacket is telling about where the market may be going.

“I think that the commuter jacket from Levi’s is really perfect because it’s focused on a single consumer audience. It has the cyclist in mind and is targeting what their needs are,” said Sidney Morgan-Petro, retail editor at trend forcasting firm WGSN.

She said that what makes the Commuter jacket different from other wearables — and even other smart clothing — is that it’s not necessarily marketing the tech as its main feature, but rather using it to solve problems that everyday people have. Many smartwatches and even other smart clothing can feel like solutions in search of a problem to solve. The Commuter jacket, she said, stands out as a type of wearable for a more everyday consumer who may not be that interested in the tech, but likes the practical features that come with a stylish jacket.

Wearables are expected to be a $19 billion industry by 2018, according to Juniper Research. Products including Fitbit fitness trackers, Android Wear watches and the Apple Watch have helped fuel a rise in mainstream awareness of wearables for the past several years, even leading Fitbit to go public in 2015. But the market for wearables has taken a bit of a tumble in the past few quarters. Fitbit in January announced it had missed earnings expectations and starting cutting jobs because sales were lower than expected.

It’s hard to say exactly what has caused the cool-down in wearables, but one possibility is that the market for uber-techy wearables that try to put a smartwatch on your wrist is pretty saturated. Analysts have pointed to a shift in the market away from the super-functional smartwatch toward gadgets that are a little more focused and better looking to boot.



Artificial intelligence ‘will save wearables’!

When a technology hype flops, do you think the industry can use it as a learning experience? A time of self-examination? An opportunity to pause and reflect on making the next consumer or business tech hype a bit less stupid?

Don’t be silly.

What it does is pile the next hype on to the last hype, and call it “Hype 2.0”.

“With AI integration in wearables, we are entering ‘wearable 2.0’ era,” proclaim analysts Counterpoint Research in one of the most optimistic press releases we’ve seen in a while.

It’s certainly bullish for market growth, predicting that “AI-powered wearables will grow 376 per cent annually in 2017 to reach 60 million units.”

In fact it’s got a new name for these – “hearables”. Apple will apparently have 78 per cent of this hearable market.

The justification for the claim is that language-processing assistants like Alexa will be integrated into more products. Counterpoint also includes Apple Airpods and Beats headphones as “AI-powered hearables”, which may be stretching things a little.

It almost seems rude to point out that the current wearables market – a bloodbath for vendors – is already largely “hearable”. Android Wear has been obeying OK Google commands spoken by users since it launched in 2014:

If a “smart” natural language interface had the potential to make wearables sell, surely we would know it by now. But we hardly need to tell you what sales of these devices are. Many vendors have hit paused, or canned their efforts completely. You could even argue that talking into a wearable may be one of the reasons why the wearable failed to be a compelling or successful consumer electronics story. People don’t want to do it.

Sprinkling the latest buzzword – machine learning or AI – over something that isn’t a success doesn’t suddenly make that thing a success. But AI has always had a cult-like quality to it: it’s magic, and fills a God-shaped hole. For 50 years, the divine promise of “intelligent machines” has periodically overcome people’s natural scepticism as they imagine a breakthrough is close at hand. Then it recedes into the labs again. All that won’t stop people wishing that this time AI has Lazarus-like powers.

We can’t wait for our mac



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