2016 is the year of the fitness tracker – Widget

Fitness trackers and smartwatches are now at different ends of the same market according to Mark Needham, chairman of consumer electronics distributor Widget UK, who says that the sector is evolving in 2016.

Even at my advanced age, I occasionally go to social events – and when I’m there, I have to explain what I do.

“My company distributes consumer electronics,” I say, before having to explain exactly which type of products fall in this category.

The reactions vary, from bafflement to enthusiasm. I find nobody knows what I’m talking about if I say that we specialise in selling wearable technology.

I don’t think that anybody sets out to buy some wearable technology. Instead people talk about buying something that will count their steps, or track their sleep pattern, a heart rate monitor or a watch to show them their messages and emails. They buy these to make themselves healthier, fitter or because their friends have one.

Some brands that we distribute sell to early adopters, and if I end up talking to the right person, they will know and love the brand, but yet I run into trouble trying to explain it to the majority of the population.

At the moment, Pebble is an example of this type of brand

In 2015, Pebble and Widget took a stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Pebble fanbase is enthusiastic and many visitors to the stand were fans that showed us their Pebble watch, or those that told us they had backed the Pebble Time device on Kickstarter.

In contrast to this situation where there is a diehard core of early adopter fans, some products crossover to the mainstream quickly.

When this happens suddenly every cross section of the population is hopping on the bandwagon to purchase the devices.

This year is clearly the year of the fitness tracker – everyone knows someone who has one.

The latest figures from GfK confirm some of my observations, as do our own sales figures. They show that by far the best sellers in the wearable technology market are fitness trackers retailing at between £79 and £129.

Market researchers describe the devices sold at the top end of the market as smartwatches, but I find only Apple and Pebble owners describe their devices as watches.

Many people who are wearing a device, which has all the features of a smartwatch, describe it as a fitness tracker.

The wearable market is evolving.

New devices which have been launched this year bring the fitness tracker and the smartwatch even closer together.

My prediction is that after Christmas 2016, I will be hearing of more people that have got a smartwatch.

The smartwatch and the fitness tracker are colliding as wearables stumble into the mainstream and I see a future of smartwatches rather than single function devices.

Mark Needham is chairman of consumer electronics distributor Widget.

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