Once dominated by heart rate monitors and pedometers, the wearables segment is finally getting interesting. Google Glass has been around for more than two years, activity trackers and fitness bands are becoming more prevalent, and Google I/O 2014 saw the launch of two smartwatches based on Android Wear.
In the months since, we’ve seen the introduction of several more smartwatch offerings and Apple this week announced its intention to enter the smartwatch market in early 2015. Indeed, the wearable tech market seems to be fast approaching its moment in the sun, but one study conducted by NPD shows that many interested Canadian consumers will only take the plunge if pricing comes down.
According to NPD’s research, of the Canadians who say they are ‘likely’ to buy a smart watch, fitness band, or a pair of smart glasses, price is the primary barrier of entry for four in ten people across all three categories. We don’t need a study to tell us that Google Glass ($1,500) or even Epson’s Moverio ($700) are too expensive for the vast majority of consumers to even consider. However, it’s interesting that consumers feel the same way about smartwatches, which are mostly in the $200 to $250 range, and even fitness bands, which usually come in under $150.
The price issue probably goes hand-in-hand with the fact that consumers also want their wearable devices to look good and be comfortable. These are, first and foremost, accessories, so it stands to reason that customers balk at spending upwards of $250 on a watch that they don’t even really like the look of and sits awkwardly on their wrist. Unfortunately, partnerships with major fashion brands (i.e., the companies that know what people look for in accessories they intend to wear every day) add an extra layer to the development process, which will no doubt have a knock on effect on the price.
The bottom line is that wearable tech is in its infancy and getting in on the ground level of a new product category requires a certain level of investment, which is then passed on to the consumer. The Apple Watch will likely be one of the most expensive options when it becomes available early next year ($349). Eventually, competition, more widespread adoption, and reduced production costs should contribute to making these devices more affordable. Until then, you’re going to have to swallow the high price if you want in on the trend.