Despite the hype, smartwatch sales took a nosedive in 2016. The International Data Corporation (IDC) released figures from the third quarter of 2016 (3Q16) showing a 51.6 percent decline in overall year-over-year smartwatch sales. On the basis of these figures, Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, commented that “It has also become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone.” That could be the understatement of 3Q16.
So what went wrong? This isn’t the first time that an entire industry overemphasized the importance of a new product. Brian Heater points out his frustrations with Android Wear 2.0 in his article “Smartwatches Need to Get Better.” Delays in OS, poor functionality, and unfulfilled promises are some of his criticisms. Although reviews of the Series 1 and 2 Apple Watch are generally good, the repeating offense—as with Android and Google watches—is they still need a smartphone.
Dick Tracy, the relentless comic strip crime detective who debuted in 1931, wore a two-way wristwatch radio that later was upgraded to a TV, and he used it to contact supporting characters. This device did not require a smartphone to operate. Apple, Google, Samsung, and the rest know that consumers want an independent device that works like a smartphone, not just an add-on.
Perhaps this is just the natural progression of technology for smartwatches to be dependent on their smartphone masters, but this writer presumes that predicted smartwatch sale projections have something to do with it and would not be surprised to see a truly independent smartwatch emerge around 2020 when smartphone sales are expected to decline.