Apple Watch and the Advancement of Wearables

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Apple’s rollout of the Apple Watch raised expectations for wearable devices to new heights. While Apple’s entry into the wearables market represents the newest and most interesting phenomenon in interactive devices, wearable technology itself actually has a lengthy pedigree. Discover how the Apple Watch stacks up in the wearables market.

The Short History of Wearables

Image via Flickr by LWYang

In 1977, the first calculator watch, called the “Pulsar,” debuted with much acclaim at a world trade fair in London. Sony’s Walkman was all the rage in wearable tech when the device debuted in 1979. Then came Bluetooth, iPods, and Google Glass.

The first fitness wearable, the Fitbit that strapped to the wearer’s belt, came to market in 2009, about the same time Nike partnered with Apple to create a fitness app for the iPod. Kickstarter-funded tech startup Pebble brought the first smartwatch to market in 2012, which paved the way for today’s advanced wearables.

Apple’s Challenge

Despite intense interest in wearables, Americans don’t seem to be terribly committed to the technology. For example, a recent report about wearable technology by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Initiative showed that while 21 percent of consumers have purchased a wearable device, fewer than 50 percent use it daily. Even worse, 10 percent stopped using it altogether.

Apple faced several challenges launching its new watch, especially given the lackluster reception of smartwatches by Motorola and LG. In addition, few Americans knew what to expect from a smartwatch.

To drive interest and broaden the device’s appeal, Apple teamed up with health informatics professionals and design engineers to load the device with advanced health monitoring sensors to track heart rate, stress, and blood pressure. In addition, Apple released WatchKit and HealthKit developer tools so that health care technology companies could develop companion smartwatch apps that capitalized on the wearable experience.

Unlike Google and Microsoft, Apple forbids apps developed with its HealthKit tools to store personal health information in the cloud.

These steps are encouraging to some health care professionals, who see Apple positioning itself to be a real partner in the health care and remote medicine field. In an article for Forbes, Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, expresses hope that Apple’s extremely successful marketing machine will inspire users to embrace the potential of wearables and take more control over their health.

Early Results

Android Wear smartwatches shipped about 720,000 units in 2014, and the second-best-selling smartwatch in 2015, the Samsung Gear line, sold 400,000 units in the second quarter of 2015 alone, according to Strategy Analytics. While Apple hasn’t released its own sales figures, Strategy Analytics estimates the company shipped about 4 million units in its launch quarter ending June 30, capturing 75 percent of the smartwatch market.

The rapid rate of technological advances leaves the future of wearables impossible to predict. As wearable technology continues to evolve, and manufacturers seek to rush the latest products to market, each new product addition leaves its imprint behind. However, many analysts expect that Apple’s entry into the field will be a game changer.



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