Unpacked: Wearable Tech Ownership

I recently completed a “first half of 2016” wearable technology study. I sought out to understand many things related to this space, including purchase drivers, whether the product purchased met or exceeded expectations, why people aren’t buying or interested in wearables and, if they intend to buy one, what is driving their interest. I came away with a very comprehensive look at the market today and can draw out some insights on where it might go over the next year or so. But one thing in particular stood out and is worth more thought. I’ll share this simple stat for this Unpacked post. These are US and UK specific data points.

It will not surprise anyone to say that most consumers do not own a wearable. It will also not surprise our readers that Fitbit and Apple dominate the market in terms of ownership. Garmin came in a somewhat distant third. In hard numbers, 81% of consumers in this study said they do not currently own a smartwatch or fitness band. What did stand out to me as I dug into this was the gender divide in terms of wearable ownership as it stands today. The headline of this slide is “Apple Watch is for Men and Fitbit is for Women.” Here is the demographic breakdown of ownership.

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The majority of Fitbit owners skew towards women while the majority of Apple Watch owners skew towards men. Given where the watch is in its adoption cycle, it is not surprising more men bought v1 of the Apple Watch when we know men tend to be more tech enthusiastic than women. The over-indexing of Fitbit owners by women is most interesting to me. The simple answer is to say women may be more interested in fitness than men. However, we know owners of Garmin’s products skew highly athletic as runners and cyclists tend to prefer Garmin. Looking at Garmin owners, there were more male than female. Perhaps the basic exercise tracking is of interest to more females than males if we use the exercise angle as an explanation.

Whatever the reason, I’m intrigued by the idea that the wearable category may be the first consumer tech segment to truly have a gender divide. Meaning, specific products need to be developed for different genders. For the most part, PCs, tablets, and smartphones are gender neutral. A wearable tech product likely aligns more with subjective fashion and other tastes more so than things like PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Which makes the case that we may see more gender specific designs from a wearable tech standpoint but also that this is an important strategy to keep in mind when developing a wearable plan. If one size does not fit all, and it likely does not in this category, then an entire portfolio of products is key to succeed in this space.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

2 thoughts on “Unpacked: Wearable Tech Ownership”

  1. Most of the changes to the AW line so far seem designed to appeal to women. The gold and rose gold versions of the Sport model, many of the newer Sport bands are more feminine colors, and the Hermes model. Anecdotally, I see many men, but few women wearing the black or silver Sport model. Most women I see are wearing one of the gold Sport models or the stainless steel.

    Since Fitbit seems to appeal to those who want a bit of activity tracking on one arm and keeping their existing watch on the other arm, it makes sense it would skew a bit female if women are more likely to wear jewlery, which is what traditionally watches are mostly.

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