Google, Intel, HTC, Samsung, Sony – these are just some of the big corporate names working to develop and promote adoption of wearable technology. But are Americans interested? Do they think such devices could be useful? These are just two of the questions The Harris Poll sought to answer in conducting a survey of 2,577 U.S. adults.
It’s an important issue because wearables like smartwatches or Google Glass are considered by some industry observers as a possible next growth engine for consumer electronics and the network connectivity that fuels them.
Nearly half (46%) are at least a little interested in owning a watch or wristband type wearable tech device, according to a Harris press release. Over one-quarter (27%) said they were very or somewhat interested, while 46% said that they were at least somewhat interested in some other type of wearable tech.
A smaller number expressed interest in wearing a tech headset or glasses: 36% were at least a little interested and 20% said they were very or somewhat interested.
Overall, different segments of the population expressed different levels of interest, Harris found:
- Interest in each type of wearable tech is strongest among Echo Boomers (ages 18-35), followed by Gen Xers (ages 37-48). Using watch or wristband type devices as an example:
- Over six in ten (63%) Echo Boomers are at least a little interested in owning such a devices, with nearly four in ten (37%) very or somewhat interested.
- Nearly half (47%) of Gen Xers are at least a little interested, nearly three in ten (28%) very or somewhat so.
- Fewer than four in ten (37%) Baby Boomers are at least a little interested, roughly two in ten (21%) very or somewhat so.
- Roughly one-third (32%) of Matures are at least a little interested, with roughly two in ten (21%) saying they are very or somewhat interested.
- Interest is also consistently stronger among men than among women; more specifically, over half of men are at least a little interested in owning a watch or wristband type of wearable tech (52%, vs. 40% among women) or some other type of wearable tech item (53%, also 40% among women).
- Those with children under 18 are also consistently more interested in wearable tech than those without, with majorities at least a little interested a watch or wristband type of wearable tech (59% among those with children under 18, vs. 41% among those without) or some other type (55% and 42%, respectively).
- But perhaps the most noteworthy difference is the one that isn’t there. The bottom line is, tech – especially in emerging categories – doesn’t tend to come cheap. As such, the fact that income shows no consistent relationship with interest in wearable tech may strike some as surprising.
Interest exists, but on balance, Americans are skeptical at present, according to Harris. About half (49%) think wearable tech is only a fad, and isn’t likely to become mainstream. Thirty-five percent disagreed, however.
Forty-seven percent questioned the wearable tech’s usefulness; 40% agreed that it could be useful in their lives.
Wearable tech as fashion? Forty-three percent agreed it can be while 41% disagreed.
Forty-five percent surveyed said they would be interested in wearable tech even if it didn’t replace something they already use, such as a smartphone; 38% said they’d only be interested in wearable tech if it could.
Such skepticism doesn’t extend across all segments of the U.S. population, Harris found:
- The majority of Echo Boomers – and a higher percentage than that of any other generation – believe that wearable tech can be stylish (53%, vs. 42% Gen Xers, 38% Baby Boomers and 33% Matures) and that it could be useful for their lives (57%, 42%, 30% and 24%, respectively). However, Echo Boomers are also more likely than Baby Boomers and Matures to say they would only be interested in wearable tech if it could replace something they already use, like a smartphone (46%, 32% and 34%, respectively).
- Men are more likely than women to believe that wearable tech is can be stylish (47% men, 40% women) and that it can be useful for their lives (46% and 34%, respectively).
- Those with children under 18 are more likely than those without to believe wearable tech can be stylish (51% with, 41% without) and useful (51% and 36%, respectively), but are also more likely to say that they would only be interested in wearable tech if it could replace something they already use (47% and 35%, respectively).
“In the end,” Harris comments, “Americans aren’t yet displaying truly decisive opinions either for or against wearable tech, which may reflect a simple lack of clear understanding of the category as a whole.
“The variety of devices coming to market thus far, and of the inconsistency of roles they’re designed to fill in consumers’ lives, can make it hard for the public to wrap its head around just what these devices are all about. Many technologies, from digital music players to smartphones, have struggled to gain mainstream attention until that one lightning-in-a-bottle moment, when a device came along to truly showcase the category and paint a picture of where and how it could fit into and enhance consumers’ day to day lives.”