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Will you love your Apple Watch, or keep it in a drawer?

The noise surrounding ‘wearable technology’ has built to a crescendo with the announcement of the Apple Watch, due to hit the shelves in early 2015. But will this be the moment that wearable technology finally hits the mainstream, or will most consumers decide they just don’t need any more gadgets in their lives?

The market for ‘wearables’ has so far been dominated by devices like the FitBit and the Jawbone UP – technology-packed wristbands that sync with smartphone apps to allow the wearer to monitor steps taken, stairs climbed, distance travelled, sleep patterns, calories burned and a whole range of other metrics. These gadgets appeal to data-hungry consumers, who find it easier to improve the healthiness of their lifestyles when they can easily measure progress.

In 2013, Sony and Samsung both launched smart watches. These serve the primary function (telling the time comes a close second) of syncing with the user’s phone, allowing them to see incoming calls, messages and social media updates without having to take their smart phone (many of which are now bulky devices referred to as ‘phablets’) out of their pocket or bag. The recently-launched, second generation of Sony’s and Samsung’s watches, as well as the Apple Watch, combine smart watch functions with health and fitness tracking and a host of other applications.

But big questions remain about whether consumers really care about having so much functionality on their wrists. Health tracking in particular could turn out to be a fad. Nike has recently discontinued its FitBand wearable device and shelved plans for an updated version. This move might well be a strategic withdrawal from the market in the face of the impending arrival of Apple’s Watch. But research by Endeavour Partners suggests that consumers are rapidly tiring of the gimmick. While one in ten American adults owns a health tracking device, barely half of those owners still use it.

The same research also found that one in three wearable devices, including smart watches, are jettisoned by the user six months after purchase. And researchers at the Cass Business School have found that smart watch users are far more interested in using the device to keep on top of communications than making use of any other functions. But even demand for this level of connectedness seems shaky. Endeavour Partners’ research found that smart watches are likely to be jettisoned by their owners within six months of purchase. And a cursory look at eBay reveals that new or nearly new smart watches can be easily picked up for a fraction of their recommended retail price.

Of course, it does not necessarily matter to the big technology manufacturers that wearable devices may not become as ubiquitous as smart phones or tablets. When you can sell your product to the world’s mass affluent population, the ‘early adopter’ market alone can be worth billions. Google has been able to enlist thousands of consumers to its Google Glass Experience programme, in which participants have paid up to $1,500 to own prototype versions of the device. And Apple will have no trouble selling large numbers of its new watch to its huge, fiercely loyal customer base – in the three days following the launch of the iPhone 6, 10m units were sold.

But maybe, just maybe, wearables represent one device too many for most technology users, already laden down with laptops, phones and tablets. Do we really need to further enable our continuous connection to the internet and our addiction to constant communication, especially when it seems to be making us lonely and sad?

Perhaps not. But on the other hand, a lot of people thought the iPad would never catch on.

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