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Jonny Evans: Wearable computing means the death of the smartphone

Jonny Evans | April 3, 2014
For wearables to really take off, they will have to cannibalise the smartphone, just as mobile devices have cannibalised the PC.

All of that remains rumor. Apple has announced nothing.

We know it to be spending record amounts on research and development, but we don't know what its plans are.

Such is the hype around wearables that Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry sounded like the voice of doom when he said that " they Apple only have 60 days left to come up with something or they will disappear."

While Apple continues to do what it does best (keeping us in the dark, that is), technology advances continue in ways that will help wearables gain that "essential" rep. Battery life, component miniaturization, user interfaces and storage capacity continue to evolve. It all helps. Who wants an extra device with poor battery life, a display you need to squint at and limited utility? Customers are going to expect voice- and gesture-controlled user interfaces and essential functions. They'll want the processing power that can deliver all of that. And they'll want it all at a price that makes sense.

Implementations we've seen so far appear to be "a solution looking for a rich nerd," as the U.K.'s Register put it. Wearables so far are literally for the world's 1%; recent KWP ComTech figures confirm that under 1% of the population owns a smartwatch, and 1.8% use fitness bands. The systems we have seen so far are not resonating with the mass market — the data shows the main users of existing wearables are men under 25.

The challenge is to deliver devices that are useful to a much wider market of potential consumers: Wearable devices need to be truly personal and essential in their own right.

When you take all of that together, there's only one outcome to expect.

We are at the beginning of the end of the smartphone.

"For a Wearable World to transpire, where it is the dominant platform, the smartphone has to give way," writes The Register, arguing that wearable computing will need to cannibalize the smartphone market. People will still use smartphones, just as people still use PCs, but a lot of what people do on smartphones today will be done instead on a watch, a button or other wearable device.

Communication, payment systems and augmented information services will drive the wearables mobile world.


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