iMedia traveled to thinkLA's Mobile Breakfast to mingle with some of the biggest players in the mobile landscape and talk about the state of the industry. OMD's director of mobile, Joao Machado, spoke with us about the wearable device market and how certain products needs to evolve to avoid the geeky stigma that might be hindering mainstream appeal. Here are some big problems with today's well-known wearable technologies.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Tethered to only one flagship device
Samsung took a bold step when it became the first major technology manufacturer to release a high-profile smartwatch. However, people were taken aback when they found out that it only works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Basically, consumers had to buy two devices in order to enjoy the benefits of a smartwatch experience. Not only is this prospect costly, but it's also not appealing if you're trying to make something new go mainstream. While the Galaxy Note 3 is Samsung's flagship device, smartwatches need to evolve to be compatible with any consumer mobile product -- or better yet, be functional all on their own.
Google Glass: Looks awkward and only popular with a small demographic
Everyone's biggest complaint about Google Glass may be the one thing keeping it from gaining mainstream appeal. The form of the device makes it awkward to wear and does not look natural. Granted, Google Glass is still in its explorer program stage, but with a wider consumer release planned for late 2014, it doesn't look like any major design overhauls are in the works anytime soon. Google has tried to address this recently by partnering with Luxottica to add custom frames and shades, but it's too early to see if this has fixed the overall perception problem.
Another big issue for Google Glass is that it seems to only be popular with one general demographic: males in their 20s and early 30s. This is mainly due to the explorer program containing so many young developers. It has cornered Google in a situation where it will have to work much harder to shatter this stereotype and make the device cool for young people. After all, if Google Glass does achieve mainstream appeal, the explorer program participants will not be a "cool" group in the eyes of Millennials and Gen Z.
Pebble smartwatch: Hundreds of apps, not enough screen
With the amount of Pebble apps now in the hundreds, you would think that it would be a great way to make Pebble a competitive standalone threat in the wearable market. The problem is (and it's one shared by Samsung's smartwatch as well) is that the screen is so small that it's hard to really do anything. Are you going to watch a movie or read a book on your 1.5 inch screen? How Pebble addresses this problem is not certain. After all, you're only afforded so much real-estate on a smartwatch. Holographic projection has been proposed as a way to subvert the physical screen size limitation, but it's not realistic to think this will happen soon.
The flatness of the mobile form
Stepping back and looking at the broader mobile world, it's clear that our devices have been stuck in flat, 2D physical form for far too long. Wearables offer a refreshing break from our idea of what mobile devices look like, and in the future we could see a world where the flat screen is only the first entry point into a 3D mobile experience that spans your whole body. The Internet of Things is also blurring the lines of what we define as mobile. Soon, most of our everyday products, appliances, and devices will communicate with people in a way that makes the mobile experience a ubiquitous one.
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Article written by senior media producer David Zaleski.
Videos edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.
"Woman doing exercise with ball wearing smart wearable device" via Shutterstock.