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6 reasons why Apple Watch will kill activity trackers (and 6 reasons it won't)

James A. Martin | Aug. 21, 2015
Apple Watch owners and users of dedicated fitness trackers, such as Fitbits, share opinions on why smartwatches will eventually make trackers obsolete, as well as reasons why fitness gadgets will remain relevant … at least for a few more years.

Another IDC report estimates that 72.1 million wearables will ship in 2015, up 173.3 percent from 2014. Between 2015 and 2019, wearables will experience a compound annual growth rate of 42.6 percent, IDC predicts. 

Here's where things get interesting. The IDC report also estimates that by 2019, worldwide shipments of "smart wearables," including the Apple Watch, will eclipse "basic wearables," defined as any device that doesn't run a third-party app, such as a Fitbit. In 2019, basic wearable shipments will see year-over-year growth of 76 percent, while smart wearable growth will increase by a whopping 683 percent year over year. 

Based on studies like the ones cited here, you might conclude that, yes, Apple Watch and other smartwatches will eventually dominate the wearables market. Dedicated activity trackers will still see growth — but for how long?

The recent history of consumer technology offers possible clues. For example, smartphones helped kill, or at least severely limit, demand for basic video camcorders (RIP, Flip!), point-and-shoot digital cameras, portable GPS devices, and low-end MP3 players. Exceptions in each of these categories exist, of course; GoPro has been successful with its mountable action camcorders, and Apple's iPod touch just received a major product refresh. Still, history shows that, in general, consumers tend to prefer one device that does multiple things instead of buying, recharging, and carrying specialized devices. 

Why a smartwatch might be a better fit than an activity tracker

We contacted 12 consumers who regularly wear an Apple Watch, or a Fitbit or other dedicated activity tracker, and requested feedback. Of those dozen sources, seven voted for the Apple Watch, and five say they prefer dedicated trackers.

Here are six reasons why the majority of sources favor the Apple Watch over fitness trackers.

1) Smartwatches offer more functionality than activity trackers

"One of the best parts about my Apple Watch is it tells me every hour to stand up and move around," says Crystal Stranger, Enrolled Agent (EA) and president of 1st Tax. "I also can leave my phone on silent and my Watch tells me when I have a text or call. These small conveniences really add up in your day and give so much more than just an activity tracker would."

2) Apple Watch is an all-in-one gadget

"Consumers crave all-in-one devices," adds Andrew Tropeano, host of NewsWatch. "When a smartwatch comes out that can replace their activity trackers but also last more than 24 hours, the decline of the activity tracker will begin. But don't expect companies like Fitbit to go down without a fight. Some of the market leaders in the activity space will most likely produce their own versions of a smartwatch that can compete with Apple and Samsung."

 

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