Wearable technology has been getting a lot of hype lately; Deloitte recently predicted that wearables sales worldwide will account for over $3 billion this year.
So is it time for app makers to start jumping on the bandwagon? After all, there is a growing market for apps on these new devices and won’t early movers have an advantage?
Not so fast, experts say. While there are opportunities for app makers in the wearable space, without clear market leaders, it’s not quite the next mobile.
“Everyone’s talking about wearables,” says Gary Yentin, the CEO and founder of mobile app marketing company App Promo. While wearable apps “will exist and will do well,” he says the developers of mobile devices still “need to get the fundamentals right.”
One of the big problems, according to Yentin, is that the market remains highly fragmented, making it hard to get an audience.
The fragmentation issue runs deep when it comes to wearables, there aren’t a lot of standards, there’s very little interoperability between devices and many existing and upcoming devices focus on doing one thing, for instance, there are a number of fitness devices but most of them are focused on measuring a few metrics during one specific activity.
Rob Woodbridge, a mobile consultant and the founder of mobile strategy site Untether.tv says he thinks wearables will take “mobile in a different direction,” with medical devices and the ability to measure things like sleep, giving developers the opportunity to go beyond making things like games.
But he says that whether it’s time to start working on apps for wearables is still a “big question.”
“I see a huge opportunity for software developers to start consolidating that data that comes from the wearable technology in use today,” Woodbridge says. “We don’t have a ‘wearable operating system’ yet so that will be something that will happen in a way.”
He points to OptimizeMe “as a good early example of an app that could bring together all the wearable data into an easy to use interface.”
On one the videos on Woodbridge’s site he talks to Cas Ladha, a Newcastle University computer scientist who is the lead developer of Climbax, a wristband for rock climbers.
In the video Ladha tells Woodbridge that building the device’s hardware was easier than coding the software because: “there’s nothing like this … we’re starting from ground zero.”
The market-share for wearables will certainly grow over the next year, but questions still remain about what devices, and even what type of devices, will catch on and whether they’ll get mass market share or remain niche products.