Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Wearables experience hurt by use of smartphone tech: ABI Research

Iain Morris
April 30, 2014
Smartphone components are finding their way into new wearable devices used for tracking a user’s health and fitness, according to a new study from ABI Research, with a detrimental impact on the user experience.

The market-research player says that “teardowns” of a number of devices revealed that nobody has an optimal wearable peripheral solution just yet.

The Samsung (Seoul, South Korea) Galaxy Gear and Z-watch, for instance, use application processors that were originally targeted for smartphones and tablets, while the uWatch goes a step further by using a full-blown GPRS system on a chip – the MediaTek (Hsinchu, Taiwan) MT6260.

Other watches, including the Sony (Tokyo, Japan) series and Pebble use discrete solutions, notes ABI.

The company says the end result of all this is a less-than-optimal battery life and challenges regarding cost and device size “that get passed on to the consumer”.

“Our findings show the chipset suppliers are playing the ‘wait and see’ game before making investments into wearable peripherals,” said Jim Mielke, ABI’s vice president of engineering.

“Of the solutions available the oversized application processors draw too much current and cost far too much,” he added. “Discrete solutions tend to be physically large and also a little higher cost than necessary.”

According to Nick Spencer, a senior practice director at ABI, the use of adapted components is likely to prove wasteful and power-inefficient, compromising the user experience of wearable devices.

“Short battery life is one of the main reasons wearables are often ending up unused in a drawer,” said Spencer.

While some chipset vendors say they have launched new chips optimized for wearables, ABI reckons some of these claims are misleading.
“Basically [they are] just rebranding existing chipsets,” said Mielke. “Chipset vendors need to go the extra mile and create optimized chips, or they risk eroding the potential of the wearable device category.”
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