CES 2014: An Overload Of Activity Trackers & Smart Watches

It seemed you couldn’t walk five feet at CES without coming across some new form of wearable technology. Last year there were the early entrants with the Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, FitBit Flex, and Pebble Smart Watch. In 2014, it seems every company under the sun had their own form of activity tracker, or smart watch. The interesting thing is that none truly stood out beyond what we already have, and the only noteworthy aspect is the sheer number of them. If you broke down all of the individual entries, there would be a lot of repetition in describing what they do. The biggest drawback of the whole collection is that none of them introduced anything we hadn’t seen before to deserve their own article.

As far as fitness trackers come they all sort of reached the point we are at with the likes of Fitbit, Up, and Fuelband, but none surpassed. No matter which new addition there was, they all basically track your steps, calories burned, and sleep cycle just like activity trackers already do. Some competed on app connectivity, others offered lower prices, and they also competed on design. One other new addition is an OLED display, which offers a few smart watch features incorporated into the activity tracker wristbands. At the end of the day, we saw new activity trackers from Sony, LG, Garmin, Razer, Epson, Sketchers, Basis, Wellograph, Jaybird, Magellan, and Mio. They all had different brand and product names, but it was tough to tell the feature sets apart.


In the smart watch arena, activity trackers are trying to be smart watches, while all the rest of the smart watches are trying to be like Pebble, or compete with the rumored iWatch. Pebble did announce a new steel series of their smart watch, while Metawatch introduced a new META with a high end design. Beyond those two there were smart watches from Intel, Archos, MyKronoz, Kreyos, Sonostar, Neptune, ConnectedDevice, Martian, PHTL, and these were just the ones at CES. In the smart watch realm, none of these got past the simplest of functions that really revolved around notifications. The smart watches can display calls, texts, e-mails, social networking, and reminders, while offering music controls, weather information, stocks, a calculator, and of course the time. There’s little innovation, or anything new for 2014 with none of them seeming to solve a problem that we have. Is it really that hard to take your iPhone out of your pocket for notifications, simple information, and minor controls?
We saw 25 different wrist based wearable technologies at CES, and can’t really distinguish any of them. The Pebble smart watch stands out thanks to the introduction of a Pebble App Store, and the FitBit Force shines with the OLED display for subtle notifications in addition to the fitness tracking. Both of these products existed before CES though, and it seems the rest have a “me too” attitude while bringing nothing new to the table. It’s tough to get excited about these simplistic offerings, and we’re still waiting for someone to truly understand what a wrist based computer can do.

It’s also worth noting that the most memorable thing we found out from the whole sector comes from FitBit. According to NPD, the new Full Body Activity Trackers category saw 300% growth in the holiday quarter, and yet FitBit accounts for 77% of unit sales in the holiday quarter. It seems there’s only one show in town when it comes to activity trackers. Now, we just hope Apple has something actually worthwhile up their sleeve.


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