Chinese consumers excited by wearable technology

Recent studies suggest that in China, wearable technology is seen as a means of boosting leisure and lifestyle. — AFP pic
Recent studies suggest that in China, wearable technology is seen as a means of boosting leisure and lifestyle. — AFP pic

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BEIJING, Nov 8 — As enthusiasm for wearable technology begins to cool off in the US, demand for smart glasses and smartwatches is heating up in China – 90 per cent of consumers are aware of the devices and 70 per cent would buy one.

A Baidu study shows that almost three quarters of Chinese consumers are interested in and willing to purchase a wearable tech device – particularly one worn on the wrist with bracelets and watches coming out as the most popular choices. Nearly 50 per cent of respondents (49.3 per cent) would consider purchasing a smart bracelet and 46.6 per cent a smartwatch. However, among those that are committed to buying rather than simply interested in wearable tech, the smartwatch came out on top with 29.1 per cent saying that they would definitely purchase one.

The survey was conducted using 10 focus groups of 40 middle-to-high-income Chinese consumers aged between 20 and 40. When asked why they want a device and how they would use it, the top answer was health, with 48.1 per cent of subjects saying that they wanted a wearable device to help them stay fit.

Likewise, 37 per cent want something that will help them implement a sports plan, and 25.9 per cent want something that will help them share sports results with friends. Responses highlight that in China at least, wearable technology is seen as a means of boosting leisure and lifestyle – 18.5 per cent of respondents would use a device for social media, and 14.8 per cent highlighted entertainment and fashion. Compare that to a mere 7.4 per cent of respondents that would consider increased work efficiency an important use or feature.

However, as Chinese consumers start to get more excited and energised about wearable tech, if a Harris Interactive study is to be believed, almost half (49 per cent) of the 2,577 US consumers it polled now consider smartwatches and glasses little more than a fad. The same percentage believes that the devices will not become as popular or common as smartphones. Only 40 per cent of respondents believe that a wearable tech device would be useful for their lives (compared with 47 per cent that disagree).

So far, with the exception of health and fitness tracking devices, the wearable technology market has failed to explode in popularity, despite analysts’ and research firms’ forecasts. Smartwatches, such as the crowd-funded Pebble, have captured the imagination of a few and have succeeded in carving out a niche – the company has sold 190,000 devices so far – while others, such as Samsung’s high-profile Galaxy Gear have met with at best lukewarm reviews and questions regarding price and use.

In terms of smart headsets, Google Glass, the most easily recognisable and hyped wearable gadget of the moment, is still a year away from a public release and even then, sales look like they’ll be confined to North America in the short term.

Rumours and reports continue to circulate that Apple has designs on consumers’ wrists and is prepping a smartwatch of its own. Dubbed the iWatch, it is expected to be unveiled at some point in 2014.

But until a company that blends desirability, technology, design and ease of use as well as Apple dips a toe into the wearable technology market, it will continue to be little more than niche product category or a tech curiosity. — AFP-Relaxnews

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