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Smart bands—the Nike+ FuelBand is perhaps the best known—have been around for a while now, enabling connected consumers to monitor their physical activity and keep track of their progress toward fitness goals, for example. In France, some 30,000 smart bands were sold in 2013 by consumer electronics retailers—including hypermarkets, specialist electronics retailers, brown-box/white-box sellers and internet retailers—according to research firm GfK’s “Référence des Equipements connectés” (REC). The REC, initiated by GfK in January 2014, combines data from a panel of retailers selling emerging technologies with consumer data on older electronic devices—and is designed to serve as a standard reference for the technological status of households in France.
Smart watches are the latest gadgets to come under scrutiny. These wearable devices are relatively new to France, launching in late 2013. Since then, the country’s consumer electronics retailers have sold 35,000 units, GfK reported. Most of those were bought either online or in specialist stores.
More than two-thirds (69%) of France’s consumers sampled in early 2014 had heard of smart watches. But most were not terribly well informed about them; only 7% of the total said they knew precisely what a smart watch was. Nonetheless, GfK predicted that word would spread, with early adopters pushing sales to 150,000 smart watches this year.
GfK also quizzed respondents about the functions and applications they most wanted in a smart watch. Here there were few surprises. The top priority was the ability to link the watch to a smartphone, so people could be notified of emails and texts. Health apps—such as those that monitor heart rate or calorie intake—were the second most popular choice, followed by a call management system connected to respondents’ smartphones. Sports and fitness apps placed fourth in terms of consumer interest.
eMarketer estimates that 58.0% of all mobile phone owners in France will have a smartphone this year. Other sources confirm that both smartphones and tablets have already made substantial inroads in France. Syndicat de la Presse Sociale reported that over two-thirds of 18-to-65-year-old internet users in the country had a smartphone in May 2014, and 35% owned a tablet. A March 2014 survey by Millward Brown concluded that smartphone users in France ages 16 to 44 spent an average of 1 hour, 19 minutes each day on their phones that month, and tablet owners spent 30 minutes, on average, with such a device.
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