Piers Dillon-Scott

SENIOR UX DESIGNER

When the novelty wears off - can we fix wearables' broken business model?

The wearables business model is broken, so could free wearable technologies help the industry go mainstream?

Makers of wearable technologies should give their devices away for free, and pay users for access to their data. That’s the provocative and challenging opinion Hans Neubert, the CCO of Frog, put forward last week.

Wearable technologies, according to Neubert’s theory, give their wearers very little value. Sure, your fitness tracker will tell you how far you’ve run, and for how long, but you’ll already, roughly, know this information - all your fitness tracker does it give you a more precise figure displayed on a nice chart.

This lack of value, says Neubert, goes some way to explaining why one third of people who buy wearables stop wearing them within just six months.

The business model is broken.

In spite of efforts to make them stylish, current generation wearable tech is bulky, fiddly, and, worst of all, quite expensive. Mid-range fitness trackers can cost upward of €100, while you could end up doling out over €200 for a smartwatch, and even perhaps up to $500 (€400) for an Apple Watch. For a mass market product this doesn’t really work, after spending a couple hundred on a new phone, are you really going to spend a couple hundred more on a device that tells you what your expensive new phone already tells you?

Offering wearables in their current form for free may not appeal to manufacturers, but Neubert is right, for mass adoption wearable technologies need a new business model. This first generation of wearable technologies are too expensive to be discarded with the changing fashions, but too technological to become loved.

Until the technology advances to a point where it is built into the clothes we buy off the rack than we’re unlikely to see a mass adoption of wearables.

Apart from the business of wearable tech, this week we’ve been looking at the initial release of Android Auto’s API, hackable cars, and how to fix the seemingly unfixable.

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Should wearables be free?

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This device lets you hack your car – what's the worst that could happen?

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Illustration: Patrick Cusack

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