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Smartwatch user dropout rate is still 29%, Gartner says

Matt Hamblen | Dec. 12, 2016
Many owners surveyed don’t find the devices useful

Almost a third of smartwatch owners -- 29%, to be exact -- have stopped using them, saying they didn't find the devices useful, got bored with them or they broke.

Those findings, released Wednesday by research firm Gartner, don't indicate that smartwatches are on their way out. But what's troubling is that the 29% rate of "abandonment" hasn't really changed very much since 2013, said Gartner analyst Angela McIntyre.

"I'm a little surprised that the abandonment rate is still that high, given all the improvements in smartwatches since the early days," she said.

That dropout rate is a serious problem for smartwatch makers since it is high when compared to the percentage of respondents who have a smartwatch; just 10% of the 9,592 surveyed, have one, McIntyre said. The survey was conducted online from June to August 2016 with residents in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

McIntyre called on smartwatch makers like Apple and Samsung to push harder to create smartwatches and other wearables like fitness bands that have functions distinct from those already on a smartphone. She said vendors need to better engage users with incentives and even games.

Computerworld blogger JR Raphael recently detailed why he stopped using a smartwatch after routinely wearing three styles running the Android Wear OS. His biggest reason for wearing a smartwatch was to keep up with information and conduct basic tasks without needing his phone. Then Raphael reached the point "where I prefer to be less connected more of the time."

At a 10% adoption rate, smartwatches are still in the "early adopter phase," Gartner said. By comparison, fitness trackers, like those made by Fitbit, have done better and have reached the "early mainstream" stage with 19% adoption. The survey also found that 30% of fitness trackers are abandoned by users after a period of time. (Gartner didn't say how long the devices were used before being abandoned.)

As other polls have shown, smartwatches are most used by people under age 45. The U.S. leads the three countries polled in smartwatch usage at 12%, while that figure was 9% in the U.K. and 7% in Australia. Usage is up somewhat in the U.S. and U.K. compared to a similar poll done in 2015.

McIntyre said her long-term forecast for smartwatch growth remains upbeat. Gartner's latest forecast expects nearly 43 million smartwatches to be sold in 2016, increasing to 58.6 million in 2017 and 87.4 million in 2020. Part of her forecast is based on how many traditional watch makers will want to add new smart features to those older watch styles.

"Watch makers will want to include functionality such as wireless connectivity with the smartphone or to add alerts or a connection to a personal assistant," she said. "That's a natural evolution of watch capabilities, as with many consumer electronics. We'll continue to see inclusions of smartwatches in the overall watch category."


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