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Wearable Gear: The Next Big Thing?

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Wearable computers like Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch may not have caught fire yet, but that hasn't stopped mobile game developers from rushing to create apps for the new devices, eager to seize what they hope is the next big moment in consumer technology. An array of new smartwatches and devices like fitness tracker Fitbit will go on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, heralding a potential breakthrough for the devices in 2014. Of the 3,300 companies exhibiting at the conference, starting 7 January, about 300 are focused on digital health, according to Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association.

And there is reason for this optimism. A new Accenture survey (Accenture Digital Consumer Tech Survey 2014) found that more than half of consumers (52 per cent) are interested in buying wearable technologies such as fitness monitors for tracking physical activity and managing their personal health. The survey of more than 6,000 people in six countries – Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- showed that many are also interested in buying smart watches (46 per cent) and Internet-connected eyeglasses (42 per cent).

In a consumer electronics world dominated by smart­phones, HDTVs, laptop computers and tablet PCs, a new market category is generating significant consumer buying interest: wearable technologies. Wearable technologies deliver a wide range of capabilities: fitness monitors track a person’s heart rate and calories burned, while Internet-connected eyeglass displays enable consumers to browse the Internet, take digital photos and receive hands-free notifications. Among the six countries, consumers in India were most interested in buying fitness monitors (80 per cent), smart watches (76 per cent) and Internet-enabled eyeglasses (74 per cent).

“In the past year wearable technologies have emerged as the next big consumer electronics market category, particularly for health and wellness,” said Mattias Lewren, global managing director of Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech industry group. “To capitalize on this growth opportunity, consumer electronics companies should consider investing in wearable product innovation and industrial design, and building ecosystems that connect wearables to the broader array of interactive digital networks. Every consumer is a digital consumer, and the keen interest in wearable technology provides further evidence of that.”

In addition, the survey found significant consumer interest in purchasing phablets, an emerging category of mobile devices that combine smartphone and tablet PC functions while featuring a screen size of five-to-seven inches -- in between a traditional smartphone and a tablet PC. The survey also unveiled strong purchase plans over the next year for traditional smartphones, HDTVs, laptops and tablet PCs.

Consumers Crave Phablets
More than half of consumers (52 per cent) who plan to buy a traditional smartphone in the next year indicated they would prefer a phablet. And while interest in phablets was significant, the surveyed also revealed that consumers continue to show strong interest in buying traditional smartphones and tablet PCs.  During the next year, for instance, 52 per cent plan to purchase a smartphone and 40 per cent a tablet PC. Similarly, 41 per cent intend to buy a HDTV and 38 per cent a laptop. Consumers’ plans to buy these four types of multi-function devices – typically the most popular product categories in consumer electronics -- far exceed the percentages that plan to purchase single-function devices such as home game consoles (25 per cent), Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation units (23 per cent) and ebook readers (22 per cent).

Indians Among Keenest Consumers
Consistent with their keen interest in buying wearable technologies, consumers in India ranked highest among the six countries in the percentages that plan to buy consumer electronics products during the next year in numerous categories. For example, 80 per cent plan to buy a smartphone; more than two-thirds (69 per cent) a HDTV; nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) a traditional tablet PC, and almost two-thirds (63 per cent) a laptop PC.

“India is clearly a major growth market for consumer electronics,” said Lewren. “Craving more personalized digital experiences, the country’s consumers rank among the world’s most willing to pay for and use consumer electronics devices -- including wearable technologies.”