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Germany's Consumers Not Sold on Wearables

Just over 1% of internet users in Germany wear a fitness band

Web-enabled smart watches, and wristbands that help people monitor their health and fitness levels, are among the latest digital gadgets to hit the stores—and there's no shortage of hype surrounding them. But many consumers in Germany have so far turned a deaf ear to such publicity, according to consultancy Fittkau & Maaß.

The firm surveyed more than 11,000 internet users in Germany for its August 2014 report, "Wearables: Smart Watches and Fitness Wristbands." The results showed that at the time of polling, few potential users were sold on these new applications of interactive technology. Just 1.4% of respondents used a fitness band—typically the cheaper of the two devices—and only 0.8% had a smart watch.

When web users were asked about smart watches, the largest single group (42.4% of the sample) said they didn't have one and strongly resisted the idea. More than one in five (22.8%) said they had no interest in a smart watch.

But the research also found many consumers open to the idea of these watches. Nearly one-quarter (24.3%) of respondents were interested in the prospect, and a further 9.7% said they hadn't decided either way. A large majority of potential users said they would like the ability to receive incoming phone calls via a smart watch, for example, or to access route-planning information.

Fitness bands drew very similar responses, though a slightly higher proportion (44.5%) of those surveyed said they actively disliked the idea of having one, and a slightly smaller share—21.9%—said they were interested in getting a wristband.

Among current owners of fitness wristbands, 62% were satisfied users, according to Fittkau & Maaß, and more than half said they wore their wristband almost every day. Around the same number actually used most of its functions, too. But almost one in six were "rather disappointed" with the device—a sign that future generations of such gadgets have the potential to win over consumers with better-designed and more comfortable versions.

The large group of consumers with no interest in either smart watches or fitness bands was distinguished chiefly by a fundamentally dismissive attitude to wearables: Most said they found the devices too basic, and simply uninteresting or superfluous. But other factors, such as the high initial cost of purchase and less-than-impressive user experience also contributed to this opinion. Manufacturers and retailers of wearables need to educate internet users about their advantages, the report concluded.

There's little doubt that the picture will change, even if smart wearable devices are taking off slowly in Germany. The arrival of more and newer models will boost awareness and swell the ranks of early adopters—gradually alerting the wider public to the uses of interactive devices worn on the wrist. ON World Inc. calculated that just 4 million smart watches were shipped worldwide last year—but forecast total shipments of 330 million within four years.

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