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October 6, 2016
By Lisa "Hammer Time" Dare
When Snap Inc. (SnapChat’s new, grownup name), publicized its splashy Spectacles this week, people couldn’t help but wonder if they’ll become yet another wearables flop.
But really, the wearables fad hasn’t so much been characterized by total flops as bafflingly lukewarm successes or no-one-got-fired disappointments.
These four wearables show why we can’t decide whether wearable tech is the next big thing ... or the next TwitterPeek.
Pokémon Go … but a little faster
The $35 Pokémon Go Plus, a little device that allows users to nab critters without opening a phone, was probably a great idea when it was announced in July. But a two-month delay took it well past the fad’s short-lived heyday. As of late-September, the product had been released but still wasn’t available in most U.S. stores.
These socks—which pause your Netflix program when you fall asleep—created a ton of buzz when Netflix announced them. While this natural evolution of laziness seemed both absurdly unnecessary and something you could no longer live without, it turns out there’s a major catch: You have to knit and assemble the electronics for the socks yourself. Which would take valuable time away from bingeing on high-brow drama like Rectify, or let’s be honest, rewatching Daredevil.
At one time, Google Glass was The Next Big Thing. People couldn’t wait for the high-tech specs to come out, and neither could Google co-founder Sergey Brin. He decided to release the unfinished glasses to an invitation-only crowd of journalists and geek taste-makers who paid $1,500 for the honor of providing free beta testing and publicity for one the world’s richest companies.
Of course, that exclusivity made the public even wilder to find out about the glasses, reports a terrific New York Times piece with juicy details about Google’s inner workings and politics. And while that enviable free press might’ve seemed like a bonus, it turned out to be a huge problem for Glass, whose early-stage flaws received a lot of very public scrutiny. The product was doomed before it was even released.
I vividly remember the first time I saw people wearing Google Glass in the wild. It was at Seattle SEO conference attended by tech-savvy late-20s hipsters (and, uh, me). This was a crowd effortlessly on trend … except for the two Google Glass wearers, looking absurdly, self-consciously out of place.
They reminded me of MC Hammer pants in the ‘80s. One day, they’re totally on point. But wear them one minute past that ... it’s not good. (Also, has anyone—ever—seen a female wearing Glass?)
Fitbit on the decline
Perhaps wearables’ biggest success, the ubiquitous Fitbit hasn’t exactly delighted buyers, most of whom dump it the junk drawer within six months. And with recent reports showing fitness tracker wearables may actually encourage users to gain weight when they’re trying to lose it, the future isn’t secure.
Perhaps Snap Inc.’s playful and inexpensive new glasses will truly become our next iPhone … anything is possible.