Ericsson: Safety concerns will drive wearables market

Ericsson predicted that concerns about personal safety will drive consumer take-up of wearable devices in future, with 32 per cent of smartphone users placing panic buttons at the top of the list of their most-wanted wearables.

Consumers therefore clearly believe that wearables will have uses beyond health and fitness, which was the primary area of focus for the earliest types of devices such as fitness bands and activity trackers.

In the latest update of the Ericsson ConsumerLab report, the Sweden-based vendor said smart watches were second on the list (28 per cent), followed by wearable location trackers (27 per cent) and identity authentication (25 per cent).

The findings were based on a survey of 5,000 smartphone users in Brazil, China, South Korea, the UK and the U.S. The report also said current research indicates that ownership of wearables among smartphone users in these five markets has doubled in the past year.

Indeed, IDC said the total global shipment volume of wearable devices reached 19.7 million units in the first quarter of 2016, an increase of 67.2 per cent from the 11.8 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2015.

The Ericsson ConsumerLab report also found that consumers are generally bullish about wearable devices, with one in three smartphone users believing they will use at least five connected wearables beyond 2020.

Interestingly, the survey showed that two in five (43 per cent) of smartphone users expect wearables "might replace smartphones" -- although it may take some time -- and 38 per cent say wearables will be used to perform most smartphone functions within just five years.

Jasmeet Singh Sethi, consumer insight expert at Ericsson ConsumerLab, said: "Early signs of detachment from smartphones are visible today with 40 per cent of today's smart watch users already interacting less with their smartphones."

Sing Sethi added that while consumers currently show most interest in devices related to safety, "we also see an openness to wearable technology further away from today's generation. In five years' time, walking around with an ingestible sensor, which tracks your body temperature and adjusts the thermostat setting automatically once you arrive home, may be a reality."

Smart watches also still clearly rank highly on the most-wanted list. However, there are also plenty of reports suggesting that such devices are not yet quite hitting the mark for all prospective wearers.

Technology journalist Alex Hern, for example, recently wrote in the Guardian that he ditched his Apple Watch "because I realised there was no point in wearing it".

Indeed, the Ericsson survey itself said that a quarter of those who have bought wearables in the past three months say their expectations have not been met.

Around 21 per cent abandoned their devices due to limited functionality and use, while 14 per cent said it was because the wearable did not have standalone connectivity.

For more:
- see the Ericsson ConsumerLab report
- see this Guardian article

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