Wearable gadgets not ready for prime time, tech watchers say

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A Sony SmartWatch2 is displayed during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. (Reuters) A Sony SmartWatch2 is displayed during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. (Reuters)
SummaryDespite the hoopla, wearable gadgets are unlikely to make a splash with consumers anytime soon.

to develop smart bracelets intended to look like they were dreamed up by a fashion designer - not an engineer.

The wearables mania gripping the industry is in part a response to slowing smartphone and tablet markets. After growing 39 percent in 2013, global smartphone shipments are forecast to expand by just 18 percent annually through 2017, with prices steadily falling, according to market research firm IDC. Tablet shipments are seen up 22 percent this year, compared with 54 percent in 2013.

Tech executives say many consumers are intrigued by the potential for wearable gadgets, but they are also cautious. A survey by research company Yankee Group in December found less than 10 percent of respondents planned to pay $200 or more for a fitness wellness device.

A survey by Wakefield Research, commissioned by U.S. cloud-services company Citrix Systems, last November found 91 percent of respondents were excited about wearables, but 61 percent said they had no plans to purchase one.

Simon Randall, whose British-based OMG Life Plc makes a wearable camera called Autographer, is not surprised. He recalls the lukewarm reception when Nokia, his employer at the time, introduced camera-phones more than a decade ago.

"New things take time to be broadly adopted but if there's an intrinsic benefit at the heart of them they'll prosper," Randall said.

HAUTE COUTURE

Samsung's $300 Galaxy Gear may have had the biggest launch of any wearable so far - but it was panned by reviewers. It shipped an estimated 800,000 of the watches in the two months since it was introduced in September, a figure that pales in comparison to the millions its smartphones manage.

Some experts said Apple may have the best chance of developing a gadget that will propel the wearable category into prime time, given its track record in consumer devices.

"2014 will be more a year of attempts than of successful products. And for a lot of manufacturers it will be a matter of waiting to see what Apple does," said Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst at Kantar Worldpanel.

While the electronics show lacked sure-fire winners, some offers were definitely intriguing and drew crowds.

Epson unveiled a $700

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