Is T-Mobile’s Legere right to bet on wearables in 2015?

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Earlier this week, we pointed you in the direction of John Legere’s 2015 forward-looking blog post. In it, he predicted a number of events and devices which would help shape this year. We’re still only two days in, but I’m still left pondering one of the predictions made by John. If what he says turns out to be true, then 2015 will be “the year of the wearables”. Just like 2014 was, as was the year previous. And yet, no year so far has fully captured the imagination.

The Apple Watch is key. Will 2015 be the year we can put a pin in as “the year smart watches went mainstream”? As Legere states, it could be:

And though we won’t see its full impact in 2015, I believe that the Apple Watch will mark the tipping point when wearables go from niche to mainstream.”

Granted, wearables completely flooded the market last year. We saw Pebble’s second generation smart watch, what felt like Samsung’s thousandth, the stunning Moto 360 and the ASUS ZenWatch. Not to mention a bunch of devices from lesser known brands like Basis and Withings among many others. But we’re still yet to see smart watches on the wrists of the general, non tech-obsessed consumers. In fact, the vast majority of techies still don’t wear a smart watch. You’re far more likely to see people wearing fitness trackers than smart watches. And even that’s a rare occurrence. So, clearly, 2014 was not the year that wearable technology was king.

T-Mobile has even decided to stock a few models of wearable, and created a special data plan for the SIM card reader-equipped Samsung Gear S which was announced a few months back. Clearly then, T-Mo was already betting on wearables before 2015 came around.

In 2014 there were two real beacon moments in the wearable market. One was the introduction of Android Wear and the other, obviously, was the Apple Watch announcement. One of those is on the market already, the other isn’t. And here’s a worrying (albeit completely anecdotal and non-scientific) thought for everyone but Apple: Whenever anyone with barely even a slight interest in tech has seen my Moto 360 on wrist, the first question is: “Is that the Apple Watch?”. This is a device which looks nothing like the Apple Watch. I mean, it’s round for a start. And that’s not an exaggeration. Not “is that a Moto 360?”. But “is that an Apple Watch.” This is the mind-share Apple has. Forget if the Apple-made device is better or worse than the Moto. People actually know about the Apple Watch. And that in itself should indicate that at least a few people will end up buying one.

With that said, I’m still not convinced the Apple Watch will be to the wearable market what iPhone and iPad were to their respective smartphone and tablet markets. I can’t see that there will be a huge upswing in the number of regular, average consumers walking around with connected devices on their wrists. At least, not in 2015. There will be an upswing, that’s taken for granted, but not “this is the moment the wearable market got turned on its head” swing.

I think the problem is – in my mind – that smart, connected wearables have to change people’s thought process about what a watch should be. Traditionally, and for decades, a watch is for one thing alone: Telling the time. And for many it’s a very personal style statement. Even though Apple will offer various style straps and three different metal finishes, it’s still nothing like the customization available in the traditional watch market. After all, it’s still just two sizes of the same square face on your wrist. And apart from the Apple Watch, Moto 360, Pebble Steel and perhaps the ZenWatch, there’s nothing really good-looking enough to convince the style-conscious to ditch their Rolex, Tag Heuer or Brietling for a wrist-worn device made by a computer manufacturer.

And it still has to answer the question: “Why do I need that?”

It’s the same question the iPad faced when it was first announced. But at least with Apple’s tablet I had an answer to that question. It offered me portability my laptop didn’t. It offered me a 10 hour battery life my laptop didn’t. It was more intimate than my laptop, in that I was directly involved with the content on the screen. It wasn’t sat, heating up my lap and blocking my interaction with a finicky keyboard. 9 times out of 10, I still pick it up over my MacBook Air to browse the web, go shopping or play games.

But what about a smart watch?

My answer – in reference to the Moto 360 – to “why do you have one?” is always “because it looks cool, and I’m a geek.” And “it shows my notifications on my wrist so I don’t have to pull out my phone for every email, or non-vital message.” But that’s all I have. Its coolness, style and features still don’t quite outweigh the fact that I need to charge it every two days, or that it really doesn’t offer me anything unique versus what my smartphone can do. And I’m not convinced – from what I’ve seen of the Apple Watch so far – that even Cupertino’s darling tech company has answered those problems yet.

So is 2015 really the real year of the wearable? In some ways, yes. Undoubtedly there will be more sold to customers than ever before, because the Apple Watch will be appealing to iPhone users who want the next, cool thing. And yes, I’ll be one of the early adopters. But I’m not sure it’ll be so big that everyone will talk about the wrist-worn gadgets in the same way that iPhone and iPad were talked about.

I could be wrong, but after owning and using several smart, connected wearables, I’m still skeptical that it’s even a thing. At least, I’m skeptical that it’s the next big thing. I see smart, connected home technology and automation as being a much bigger, and more vital area of the tech scene than any vibrating, buzzing, motion sensing piece of gadgetry I stick on my person. But that’s an entirely different article waiting to happen.

What do you think? Will you (or do you) don a wearable gadget on your arm? Why/why not? And will Apple’s Watch make it a more popular market?

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  • I always tell people that my Moto 360 is the Apple Watch 9 that’s made out of stardust, indestructable, can summon sharks with lazers, oh and best of all that it works with Windows Phone!

    Most of the time they believe me. I am starting to think it’s not Apple that’s what people believe—but more so whatever’s in the news that they believe.

  • Qbancelli

    Who cares what year is it, or if the regular folks will start wearing one.

    I’m loving my 360. It’s very useful to me, and get compliments daily about it.

    • skywalkr2

      I’m waiting for LG G Watch R to see if it works for me… or if battery life is still too short.

  • Boris

    I’m getting one when they come out.

    • yankeesusa

      I’m getting one too. To resell it. :)

  • Medion

    It amazes me just how much mindshare that Apple has, even though I should know better. I wear a Moto 360 on a daily basis, and I’m often getting people on the train or passing by asking me if it’s an “iWatch,” or an “Apple Watch” for those who are aware of the announcement.

  • analyzethis

    If Apple came out with an iToilet they’d be sold out.

    • JJCommonSense

      Well… didn’t they buy Nest? LoL

    • IIOII

      Dude you still don’t got an iToilet?
      Quit trolling the iToilet, its the best pooper can available!

  • monkeybutts

    too much of a passing fad till something better comes along.

    • yankeesusa

      It could be a fad but I use my watch all the time. The Google glasses are more of a fad then the smartwatch. With better battery life the moto 360 would be even better.

  • steveb944

    What do you think?
    My 360 says so! And the people calling yours an Apple Watch are idiots. The general consumer knows when Apple releases a product to market because their advertising and buzz destroys everything else in the world.
    Everyone calls mine a smart watch. They confuse my Oneplus One more easily for an iPhone due to size.

    Will you (or do you) don a wearable gadget on your arm? Why/why not?
    I do, and plan on upgrading on a 2 generation cycle. I have a phablet and it’s really useful to keep it in my pocket. Being able to control my phone, have notifications like you said, and fitness benefits are enough for me.

    And will Apple’s Watch make it a more popular market?
    Of course. It’s where everybody flocks.

  • kevin

    I know this is out of topic on dec27 i went to tmo store and bought the z3, prior to the z3 i was using the nokia 635 which i got it 4 months ago. A month before i got the z3 paid the rest of the device on EIP. Now my question is does anyone knows exactly if i have keep using my nokia 635 to unlock it. I want to unlock it for my sissy who lives overseas and i want to give it to her to use it on movistar.

    • G

      Just call into customer care and request for the phone to be unlocked as long as it’s paid off they’ll do it. They just need the imei number and ur email address because that’s where they are going to send the instructions to unlock the phone. If they ask u why u wanna unlock it. Just say u need it for international travel..

  • jpan84

    I just got a Pebble Steel about a week ago.

  • techraan

    I just got a Galaxy Gear S. I can see how it will work in my life. Much more than a tablet ever did. Oh… I still hate Apple and everything they stand for.

    • JB

      How do you like the Gear S?… Honestly I’ve been going back and forth on of I want that or the 360.

      • JJCommonSense

        I’ve had it since the day TMO released it and I don’t go a day without it.. I love being able to respond to texts on my wrist with the keyboard. And I even like the speakerphone component.. it’s surprisingly really good.. most people I talk to can’t even tell they’re on speakerphone. I wish the app support was there and wish they would release some cool bands to go with it. But otherwise, I think it’s the coolest one cause it can operate as a stand alone phone, gps, and media center. I can stream from Milk Music, I can even surf the Web with the opera browser. I get about 2 days of battery life which is good. I wish I got that much out of my note4. It definitely isn’t for everybody but it’s an Uber convenience

      • techraan

        I’m a big fan of the Gear S. I was put off by the first gen smart watches. Didn’t really see how they’d help. Having a SIM card in your smart watch so you can leave your phone at home is a big frakking deal. Love the Gear S.

      • JLamar

        I picked mine up the day tmo came out with it. I have not worn a watch in years. I’ve read multiple reviews hilighting the cons. One issue: you can only use it with a specific Samsung device. Same with apple watch. I’ve used the wrist phone multiple times. Pretty cool. I’ve streamed music, and it is one great looking notifier. I pull my note 4 out 75% fewer times now. One of my regional leaders (work) came by this past week. He is known as being somewhat anti tech. After two days he finally asked about the watch. I showed him a few apps (Look Behind is a good one to use). His comment, “That really looks cool”, floored me. As I use it I realize it’s not all it can be, and it has the potential, with software tweaks, to be much more. I like it. I will continue to buy into whatever the latest, useful, tech is available. Mainly because I am 50yrs old and I love tech. Life is short. Why not?

      • JLamar

        Waiting for someone to root the GS for use with Android Wear.

    • Adrayven

      Technological bigotry always amazes me.. lol

      • techraan

        Heaven forbid, if Apple gets enough of the market to start dictating terms, you shan’t be amazed any longer.

  • wazmo

    Too early.

  • loopyduck

    “But what about a smart watch? My answer – in reference to the Moto 360 – to “why do you have one?” is always “because it looks cool, and I’m a geek.””

    I have a Pebble. It’s much easier to show people what it can do rather than tell them. Email and message triage, breaking news alerts, next bus and train info, Starbucks card, Yelp, Swarm check-ins, and more. All without having to pull out the phone.

    Of course, the week-long battery life is one thing that can’t be (easily) shown.

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    Last couple of years it was everyone and their mother putting their names on tablets now it will be wearables for the next couple years.

  • TechHog

    I really hate how Ledger is such an Apple fanboy. Either way, he’s unfortunately right. Apple’s bland, uninspired, ridiculously overpriced watch will dominate the market and make $350 the norm. Yay.

  • Jay Holm

    I haven’t worn a watch in over a dozen years, and have no intentions of wearing one now.

  • taron19119

    I want a real good reason to buy asmart why because i see no used yet

    • richard jerashen

      The Gear S main feature is why i bought it
      Never leave home without a phone even if i forget my phone still got my Gear S phone

  • yankeesusa

    Even if the Apple watch sucks and has same or worse battery life than current smartwatches people will still buy because it’s Apple. Hopefully it’s great so it jump starts everyone else. I like the features of my 360 but battery can definitely improve.

    • HumorPrint

      I don’t think that anyone other than diehard Apple fans will jump on it the first year. After two years and some good Christmas sales it might catch on in the lower ranks, but they really need to justify getting people to spend that much money on it. As someone pointed out, most Apple fans aren’t really known for their tech saviness and this is one device that is more aimed at those that know how to use their tech instead of just being cool. I only see it really taking off if the Christmas sales can boost it so it is gift worthy.

      • yankeesusa

        Everything iPhone related sells like crazy no matter when it’s released. Even with all the bend issues this latest iPhone was one of the highest selling iPhones. I think people are going to go crazy. Like Japanese people selling a spleen to buy an iPhone.
        But I guess we’ll see.

  • Dylan Aarhus

    I just got a gear s and it is stupendous and beautiful the os is nice and fluent and the screen is beautiful

    • skywalkr2

      If samsung didn’t cripple the gear watches to only work with Samsung phones… i would definitely own one.

      • Dylan Aarhus

        First of all you don’t need a Samsung phone you only need a Samsung phone for Bluetooth but you can also use it as a phone and you don’t need a Samsung phone for the watch I love it

  • Thomas Vu

    Yes, Legere is right.

  • richard jerashen

    I own a Gear S And everytime I go somewhere people ask me about my watch and then the “Aww!!!” factor sets in and the next words out their mouth are “where can I get one”.
    About 30% of those people later return to have purchased one and love it and refer their friends.
    So its still a growing trend but just as PDA’s, cell phones, laptops, PC’s, and Tablets, these things take time to catch on.

    Just remember the future is here and it is inevitable!

    • Only the present is here and now and the future is known to be rather pesky to predict.

  • dm33

    I have all the Apple gadgets and I think Apple Watch is lame. It provides no new value. You need a phone to do most stuff with it. I’d rather just use the phone.

  • KijBeta

    I think it will get bigger, and we will see more than just watches starting to come out. But I don’t think it will be the year it takes off in a major way. I don’t think they have long enough battery life. Also (In my opinion) the usefulness and convenience is not to a point where non tech savvy people, other than apple fans will want one.
    If we are lucky, near the end of this year the battery life and software will start to be compelling for the masses. Otherwise I think 2016 wearable tech will mature into more than just watches, to be popular with everyone and their mom.

  • Apple has good marketing and a following. However, just like many still refer to any tablet as an iPad, i wouldn’t read too much into smart watches being referred to add an Apple Watch.

    Yet, i find it curious that many dismiss the need for a watch because they have a phone in the pocket and now many defend the need for a smart one because it’s cumbersome to pull the phone out of the pocket.

    As for me, a fan of mechanical watches with a phone in my pocket, I don’t really see myself wearing a smart watch. I appreciate analog watches for factors that smart watches don’t offer. Surely many will appreciate them, but for other reasons. Mechanical watches will continue to exist for the same reasons that they do even after quartz watches.

    • janon

      Completely disagree. The watches still work fine when the phone is dead, they just lose connected capability. Anything localized or cached works fine (including fitness tracking)

      A dedicated radio on the wrist increases cost and size, requires another subscription, and kills battery life. In addition, it requires good software to keep things in sync when there are multiple authoritative sources (hint… Samsung can’t write good software at all and google, apple and microsoft, who all can, don’t like autonomous watches)

      The Gear S is a mess that only the most dedicated geek could love. If there is value in having yet another cell connection living on the watch, it certainly hasn’t remotely been demonstrated yet

      Meanwhile Pebble has shown how a tethered smart watch can give you a solid “normal watch plus more” experience with few drawbacks.

  • HumorPrint

    I adopted early and bought the Moto 360. I like that it’s round and whenever people see it, they ask if it is one of “those” watches. Then they ask me what i can do with it. They are basically sold on the fact that i can change the face to one of around a hundred I have downloaded depending on my mood, outfit, or social setting and do not really hear anything else I say about how useful it is while driving or walking for that matter. Is it a tech necessity? Not really, but to me a tablet isn’t either, yet I feel like my watch has just as much a right to be on my nightstand as my watch. My only regret is adopting early and not waiting for the next Moto360, but then again I can always pass my watch down to my daughter and upgrade.

  • Paul

    I believe that Apple Watch will be the spark that starts the larger fire, but there’s already a fire going with the Android watches.
    If the prices level out, or come down a bit more, then we’ll see more people wearing them. Sadly the cheap ones are not that far off and the quality will bring down the status.

    Otherwise, my Fossil watch from 2003 works GREAT! I don’t need the features of a smart watch but they are neat.

  • J.J.

    i strictly use android and own a 360(which i get questioned on almost every time i wear it in a public setting), but i think this apple watch will open the flood gates on smart watches and im excited. once people blindly go out and buy the apple watch, sales will only stimulate more competition bringing better android wear watches. see… apple is good for something.

    • skywalkr2

      With the amount of wearables that already exist… competition already exists. All an apple watch will do is prove the iSheep rule.

      • J.J.

        True competition exist but truly how many smart watches do you see out in the wild. Only tech folks even know about android wear. They are no where near main stream. what I was saying was that apples “Isheep” as you say will make smart watches very visable in public which will

  • Yardie D

    I got the Asus Zenwatch & changed the band to a metal one. No one notices that I have on a smartwatch until a call comes in or I check my watch for something. When that happens I get the WTF look! I wear a LG around the neck Bluetooth headset with only the earpiece showing so I answer my calls by first looking on the watch to see who’s calling, then accept the call by swiping on the face of the watch. No need to take out my big ass phablet. I did that at a vendor’s warehouse where I was picking up some goods & got this shocked look by the guys there. They were asking me wth I just did but a couple asked me if it was the new iwatch, but a few think I’m some FBI agent with the latest surveillance tech lol.

  • nettieoliverio

    Loved the look and convenience of an AsusZen on my wrist. Hated having to constantly recharge my Nexus 5. The Bluetooth drain gave me roughly 5 hours of battery life from a full charge. Gonna give ’em another generation to improve before I wear.

  • Tinger12

    Sorry, but this seems like the same thing the TV manufacturers did with 3D TV. They are forcing something on the market that the market never hinted at being a need. They are trying to create a need based upon their own desire instead of the consumer creating the need. I am guessing the watch category will sell well initially and most will eventually not use them. They will note their limitations (screen size, interface, battery life, and general usefulness in everyday tasks). One thing about technology companies is they try real hard to create a need when there is not yet a clear consumer desire for the need. Sometimes it can work and a market is created. But there more failures than successes.

    • skywalkr2

      I personally love my 3D TV from LG.

  • shamatuu

    The Apple watch will be expensive so it won’t matter since only a very small percentage will have the money to buy it.Like 5%

  • janon

    Before the iPhone the exact same thing was said about smartphones. People have such short memories. I remember it because at the time I was working at Microsoft and actively trying to sell Windows Mobile against Blackberry. Smartphones were an executive and enthusiast niche. The ‘experts’ insisted normal consumers would never want or understand them and so the “toy” iPhone would have no audience

    Before the iPad the denial was FAR stronger “no one needs a huge iPhone. Microsoft already tried this and failed. Apple had the Newton 20 years ago and it went nowhere”… On and on… The ‘expert’ consensus was that tablets were an utterly useless thing that no one needed and no one would want

    Now let’s go back to before 90% of ” tech expert bloggers” were born and the introduction of the iPod. You guessed it… “MP3s suck. No one will pay for digital music. The labels will never allow it” on and on

    So yeah… Not saying the iWatch will transform the wearable space, but pundits have been 100% consistent on being 100% wrong and then 100% consistent in their hypocrisy when, years later, pretending that they saw these shifts coming

    If the iWatch hits, expect it to be added to the list the next time the “experts” are questioning Apples entry into whatever emerging space will be controversial at the time

    • kalel33

      Not 100% fail. 3D TVs. Big screen, hand held gaming devices. Video calling. Intelligent refrigerators. Virtual Reality. Siri. Google Glass. How long has NFC been around and it still hasn’t caught on.

      To play devil’s advocate on some of your comments: MP3s suck when compared to CDs or lossless. Most people would not notice the difference on their cheap/crappy systems anyways. Heck, people paid +$200 for crappy Beats headphones. I know a lot of people, me included, who have tablets. The adults hardly ever use them and their more of a device for kids to play games or watch videos on.

      • Austin

        I know tons of people that use Siri, though often not for valid reasons. The first generation of Google Glass was intended for a niche market.

  • Apple will make some great TV adverts and people will find use for them. I have owned/tried one of every tablet (OS) when they came out as they were all promising a laptop replacement experience. The iPad I wanted to chuck at the wall every time it took me to a mobile site or offered to download me an app rather then going to the actual website. The Nexus 7 was not better, both were basically oversized phones. I liked that the Surface was a fully functioning computer, but really it was neither good as a table nor laptop. I finally realized that a touchscreen ultrabook was perfect for me.

    BUT GUESS WHAT!?!?! I replaced my parents old Best Buy bargain bin laptop with an iPad and they absolutely love it. Its the perfect Facebook machine for my mom and the malware free PornHub machine my dad always wanted.

    My point is that maybe the smartwatch, like the table will find its niche. Just like the table offered more simple and bare-bones laptop experience that was perfect for the non-techie. The smartwatch might do just that to for smartphone, a bare-bones smartphone experience, a simplified “settings-free” personal notification and navigation device that requiring minimal user input (ie. voice recognition or Google Now prediction) palatable for non-techies. Ever seen a 50+ year old person use a Samsung Galaxy S5??? They are terrified by the user interface! Something that might seem simple like setting a navigation route can seem complex to someone not familiar with the icon lexicon and interface design.

    The average consumer wants to watch an Apple TV commercial where Justin Timberlake flicks his wrist, tells his smartwatch to “take me to the nearest Starbucks” and have route pop up on his wrist.

    THAT is when the these things are going to hit mainstream.

    • skywalkr2

      I agree that GPS and directions on your wrist would be a BIG selling point.

  • GinaDee

    People who wear watches just to “tell time,” are the same people who use mobile devices just to “make calls,” and probably still write checks at the grocery store.

    The iWatch (or whatever Apple calls it) will be huge and create even more brand loyalty identify for those already part of the iOS ecosystem. The watch, the phone, the tablet, the laptop, the cloud, the music, the movies, the payment system…. etc. all Apple.

    Big name watch manufacturers like Timex will likely partner with Apple to add a customized flavor of the watch for those in need of a higher end or luxurious model.

    For me I personally love my Garmin vivosmart fitness band. I’m hoping the iWatch will be sleek, thin and attractive to wear either on the court or in a business meeting.

    I’ll likely be buying one regardless because I’m a tech enthusiast and prefer to support an American brand over one from South Korea or Taiwan.

    These will be pricey. No doubt T-Mobile’s customer base will likely only accept them if they offer them on some form of Equipment Installment Plan since they are already used to that. This in turn will make users even more indebted to T-Mobile and will be less likely to churn out in fear of having to be responsible for the full amount all at once.

    • Oh, my watch tells the time and the date without any batteries! My smart phone, on the other hand, is seldom used to make calls. And just what is a check? Methinks that the lady assumes too much.

    • Austin

      Have fun paying more to a brand that is in the US instead of somewhere else.

  • Brian Cicalese

    Wearables are a waste of money

    • Austin

      How?

      • Brian Cicalese

        Not everyone is going to wear an item on their wrist. This product line is forcing itself upon people.

  • Juan Ortiz

    I’ve been involved in conversations with people who don’t see a point in wearables for the same reasons as you have mentioned here in your article. Something big and completely different needs to happen with it to appeal to the masses and I don’t see that happening in any way.

  • 21stNow

    I’m still enjoying my Samsung Galaxy Gear. I think that a smartwatch suits my needs and lifestyle well. I don’t plan to upgrade to another watch anytime soon because the Galaxy Gear is just fine for me.

  • Nick Gonzalez

    As much as I love John and what he has done with T-Mo I got to disagree. I love my iPhone 6 so far, so when I tell you that I believe the Apple watch is the fugliest thing I’ve ever seen come from Apple, you have to believe I’m not being fanboyish.

  • skywalkr2

    I want a wearable, but only when they are fully water resistant and also can hold a 1 – 2 week charge.

    • JBLmobileG1

      Get a Pebble. Waterproof and the battery can last a full week without charging. Also viewable in the sun and in the dark. Problem solved! Plus they are a lot cheaper in price than everything else and keep it simple.

  • ssjchaseutley

    I don’t want to purchase a wearable bc i know ill see an ad on my wrist eventually and all im gonna do is get pissed off.

  • No he’s not right, wearables will make them some money but they won’t be a game changer. They will be a step (way) above Google Glass, but a step below tablets and multiple steps below smartphones. They’re neat but not helpful or cool enough to blow $200 on.

    • Billybob

      Yeah, tell that to all the people trying to get their hands on a Microsoft Band. They can’t keep those things in stock and they are $200 from the MS Store when they have them.

  • Dean

    I bought a Moto 360 and returned it a week or two later. Couldn’t stop asking myself, “why do I need this?” Ultimately, I couldn’t find one solid reason… Don’t think that will change with Apple Watch.