Smartwatches and activity trackers have serious abandonment issues

PCWorld | Jul 31, 2014

Some 33 percent of all wearable owners stop using their gadgets after six months. Jon Phillips tackles smartband attrition rates, the ugly Runtastic Orbit, and Android Wear's one-month report card in Episode 11 of Wearables Right or Wrong?

Wearables Right or Wrong? Smartwatches and activity trackers have abandonment issues?
That’s right.

So a research company called Endeavor Partners just published data that shows 33 percent of people who somehow attained a wearable stopped using it entirely after 6 months. Essentially, they just put it in a box and walked away. The attrition rate is an improvement over a 2013 version of the same study, but it still shows that many users aren’t loyal to their smartwatches and activity trackers.

Now it’s worth noting that a lot of wearable owners received their gadgets as gifts. These people people didn’t volunteer for the wearable dream, so their loyalty can’t be counted on. But can you imagine if 33 percent of new smartphone owners stopped using their handsets after 6 months? Smartwatch and activity tracker companies clearly have to make more compelling arguments for continued, persistent use.

Wearables Right or Wrong? Activity trackers don’t need to look good, they just need to work.
That’s wrong.

Listen, there’s two schools of thought on this, and some people just don’t care what they put on their wrist. But I’ve been testing the Runtastic Orbit, and it just looks pretty ridiculous next to my analog watch.

First off, it’s honkin’ big. It looks like a second watch, begging the question, Who’s this freak show who needs two watches on his wrist? Second, it doesn’t have a sophisticated industrial design. It looks vaguely sporty, but it’s not anything I’d be proud to show off. It’s just a cheap-looking blob of rubber.

Now I know this opinion doesn’t fly with a lot of people. Something tells me this guy, or this guy, or this guy doesn’t care about aesthetic expression. But it’s my wrist. I decide what goes on it, and I still think the Jawbone UP is the only activity tracker that looks perfectly at home next to a wristwatch.

Wearables Right or Wrong? Android Wear gets a B grade on its one-month report card.
That’s right.

Google’s smartwatch OS just passed the 30-day mark, and so far the platform is off to very good start. Voice-based texting is incredibly useful, and I’m becoming addicted to Android Wear’s notification cards. I also use the system constantly to check sports scores.

Now, the main thing that denies the system an A grade is its lack of third-party apps. None of the big social media services have Android Wear apps, and we’re still waiting for that killer, totally unexpected app that shows a new use case that only makes sense for smartwatches.

But the bottom line is that every day I’m forced to make a tough decision. Should I put on my analog watch or an Android Wear watch? Android Wear is a smartwatch platform that actually works, and if I didn’t already wear a wristwatch, it would have my everyday loyalty.