May they wrist in peace

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I ’m cu­ri­ous about the smart watch scene. When Ap­ple an­nounced the Ap­ple Watch there was much ohhh and ah­hing from the faith­ful, and the wannabe Dick Tracy crowd (of which I count my­self), but how many of you ac­tu­ally bought one – and more to the point – how many of you still have them on your wrists?

Not many, ac­cord­ing to the sales num­bers. Smart watch sales de­clined 51% last year (ac­cord­ing to IDC), but ‘bounced back’ in the most re­cent fig­ures by 16% (IDC, to March 2017). How­ever, that pos­i­tive gain was fu­elled al­most en­tirely by a huge surge from Chi­nese com­pany Xiaomi, which recorded a sales in­crease of over 90% in the pe­riod, which of course helped in­flate the num­bers – al­beit to a barely-there 16% over­all im­prove­ment. In terms of lo­cal rel­e­vance Xiaomi wear­ables aren’t sold here. So there’s that to add an­other cou­ple of ques­tion marks to the pon­der­ing of just who is still us­ing these.

In my not-very-sci­en­tific stud­ies of peo­ple’s wrists over the years, it cer­tainly seems that there are fewer smart watches be­ing used. But what I see is telling. Mostly when I see a smart watch, it’s wrapped around the wrist of a high rank­ing ex­ec­u­tive. Other, lesser peo­ple wrists, tend to sport fit­ness track­ers. So what to make of that? I think the ob­vi­ous take away is that the killer app for smart watches is health and fit­ness – why spend $400 or $500 on a smart watch for just those func­tions when a far cheaper fit­ness band will do? Es­pe­cially if it’s wa­ter­proof (I’m be­ing po­lite, I mean ‘sweat’), and dou­bly so if it doesn’t need its bat­tery charged each and ev­ery day.

As for why smart watches seem to be favoured by the rul­ing class, I once thought it was just a bit of sta­tus-driven ac­ces­soris­ing. Smart watches as the new Rolex, so to speak. I en­quire, when the op­por­tu­nity arises, usu­ally over a nice lunch they’re pay­ing for while I’m be­ing treated to an over­view of their com­pany’s lat­est some­thing, just what ap­peals about their par­tic­u­lar choice in elec­tronic wrist adorn­ment? Once again, the an­swer is telling. It’s so they get alerts when an im­por­tant email has just ar­rived. They run email fil­ters that pri­ori­tise cer­tain senders, so it’s not like their wrist tin­gles ev­ery cou­ple of min­utes when some­thing un­im­por­tant ar­rives – they’ve set it up so when some­thing ac­tu­ally im­por­tant comes in they know about it straight away, and, tap­ping into one of the key orig­i­nal sell­ing points of wear­ables – are able to at-a-glance de­ter­mine if it needs im­me­di­ate deal­ing with, dis­cretely, and with­out dis­re­spect­fully pulling out a smart­phone in the mid­dle of a nice con­ver­sa­tion at lunch.

It’s a happy blend of eti­quette ad­her­ence and pri­ori­tised in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment. And of course, see­ing a new tech find a per­fect niche.

Ben Man­sill Edi­tor

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