Will These New Designs Revive The Market For Smartwatches?

Danielle Beurteaux

To coincide with this fall’s New York Fashion Week, design brand Michael Kors released its new smartwatches. With an emphasis on design and more than a little bit of bling, these devices have garnered a lot of attention as a contender for the Smartwatch People Will Want to Wear.

But weren’t we all supposed to be flashing our smartwatches by now? Predictions of mass adoption of the devices were a tad optimistic. Smartwatch sales have flatlined recently, and, according to figures from IDC, predictions for 2016 are just under a four percent increase. The research company’s analysts say that software problems, chunky designs, usability, and battery life are all reasons that many consumers have decided to forgo buying one.

So this new generation of watches could be the ones that people want to buy. Apple has the lion’s share of the market, and even it has adapted its smartwatch to consumer uses. Its new Series 2 watch is big on fitness, which is what many were using their first Watches for, anyway.

The Kors watch, in contrast, is big on design and visuals. Its face is customizable, and the company says there are hundreds of display and color combinations. With prices starting at $350, the cost is on par with Apple’s offering (the Series 2 starts at $395). It’s been getting some very positive reviews for both design chops and function.

Other design brands have also tried to offer devices that are more fashion-forward. Kate Spade is one example. The brand’s fall 2016 releases (including a fitness tracking bracelet) are sleek, with gold and pastel details. The top price point is $250, which isn’t so prohibitive for some consumers that they’d think twice about buying, even if they don’t care so much about the technology and/or don’t intend them for everyday wear.

Both these smartwatches come from partnerships with watchmaker Fossil. Fossil’s own new line of smartwatches, the Q series, look like a conventional wristwatch and also get points for style. The Q Wander has been designed so it fits on a female wrist, and with a price point in the $300 range, again, it’s not so expensive for a smartwatch that it’ll scare some people away from buying one as their first entry into smartwatches.

Much of the focus on early-generation smartwatches was on how the technology lived up to the hype or fell short – think connectivity issues, battery drainage, and overall “why do I have this in my life?” wonderings aka “is this a necessity?” For the kind of early-adopter buyer with a tech bent, all relevant. But that’s really a pretty small market. For smartwatches to become a common sight on wrists and fulfill those sales expectations, wearability and looks can’t be overlooked. Smartwatch makers might finally be thinking about combining some style with all that function.

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Image: Michael Kors on Instagram

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.