Smartwatches & fitness trackers are rapidly growing into a mass market segment. Considering about its use case from a self tracking perspective, it isn’t always useful for everyone. Tracking foot steps or cycling time can be easily achieved using smartphone sensors.
I was discussing the use cases of fitness trackers with some friends who also lifelog using wearables on their wrist. We were trying to understand cases in which wearables would actually make a difference.
1. When the smartphone can’t be around. While playing a sport, it isn’t always possible to keep a smartphone in the pocket. This is when a fitness tracker can be really useful. It is unobtrusive, can be worn on the wrist or strapped to the shoe. The adidas Micoach X_Cell can even give useful data like acceleration speeds, jump heights and even stride/reaction speeds. This can be really useful to understand athletic metrics and to improve on them. Apart from this heart rate sensors are useful to stay within the max heart rate.
2. At gyms. During a workout on a cross trainer, flywheel or even with weights, heart rate can be a useful parameter to track. It can even be useful for high intensity interval training to keep within 90 percent of your max heart rate. Heart rate can give a better picture of calories burnt compared to the gyroscope & accelerometer.
3. Tracking precise sleep. Smartphones can be used to track sleep timing patterns but for more detailed REM sleep tracking a wearable is needed. A fitness tracker would be more useful to help with sleep disorders.
4. In special cases like surgeries. Some surgeons have used the Google Glass to video log surgeries and use it as a communication tool. It provides a seamless display for surgeons making it very valuable.
In terms of market size, wearables will not grow as big as the smartphone because of the limited use case. Rather, due to the smartphones already having enough sensors to track data for a normal user. This can be supported by the data of strong sales of cheap fitness tracker like the Mi Band and the high abandonment rates. One third of Fitbits get abandoned in 6 months! Devices like the Apple Watch still have a stronger use case with an entire ecosystem of apps to support it. I see wearables having a use case in niche areas where precise fitness & health parameters are important. Also in places where an unobtrusive display is useful. For most of the users, the smartphone is enough. With innovations like Apple’s core motion processors & Google’s sensor hub, fitness for the general user is being covered within the smartphone.