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Survey: Most Americans don't want wearable tech like iWatch, Google Glass

Apple’s anticipated iWatch and Google Glass have provoked plenty of headlines, but a recent poll shows that a majority of well-heeled Americans with college degrees wouldn’t consider buying or wearing such devices.

The April telephone poll of 1,011 Americans 18 and older found that only 34 percent of those polled who make $100,000 or more a year would consider buying or wearing a consumer-grade smart watch or smart glasses. For those with a significantly smaller income, $35,000 annually, the percentage of those interested in the technology increases to 47 percent.

Apple’s rumored smart watch may be a tough sell, if results of a survey commissioned by IT staffing company Modis are any indicator.

College graduates are also least likely to buy wearable technology, according to the survey. College grads interested in wearable technology was no higher than 37 percent, but the interest level rose to 45 percent for those with a high school degree or less.

Overall, for all ages, incomes and education levels, 42 percent of Americans said they would buy or wear a smart watch while the number dropped to 39 percent for smart glasses.

“I thought [wearable technology] would resonate more with those making over $100,000, especially because they tend to be technically savvy and will buy the latest iPhone when it comes out,” said Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president of Modis, a large IT staffing company.

Modis commissioned the survey, which was conducted by Opinion Research Corp., partly to gauge how much demand IT operations will face from workers who want to use smart watches and smart glasses at work. In most cases, the wearable devices would connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone. Or, IT shops might need more staff to write applications for coming wearable devices, Ripaldi said.

The survey helped convince Ripaldi that consumer-grade wearable devices are not going to create a short-term demand for such jobs. “Is there short-term demand [for wearable technology] and will we need more talent trying to get ahead of it? I don’t think so. There’s still a ways to go for wearable computing,” Ripaldi said.

Ripaldi said wearable technology needs to be seen and tested by more people to judge its popularity accurately. “A majority of these people in the poll have not had a chance to see or use a smart watch or smart glasses,” he said.

Google GlassNick Barber
Google Glass is already in the hands of early adopters.

A variety of wearable technologies have long been used by pilots and workers in some industrial jobs, partly to keep their hands free, analysts said. Ruggedized, wearable devices for industry include optical readers worn on the hand, fingers or wrist to read bar codes and head-mounted displays that can provide visual inputs and respond to voice commands.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said industrial wearable devices are “old school,” but newer devices could offer businesses alternative ways of doing things. “The real potential breakthrough that wearables could offer business is having more sensors and interaction mechanisms than what we have today,” he said.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said wearables are an emerging technology that will take five to 10 years to reach mainstream consumer acceptance.

One factor working against smart watches is the limited size of the display, which could make it harder to read, especially for older eyes.

sony smartwatch2
Sony’s SmartWatch 2

“Yes, exactly, eyesight is a factor,” Ripaldi said. “In meetings, I hear people wonder how the display would work, which tells me there are lots of questions around the technology.”

The survey also found that Americans with younger eyes want wearable technology. The only age group with a significant majority wanting either smart watches or smart glasses was the 18-34 category, with 57 percent saying they would purchase or wear smart glasses, and 53 percent saying they are interested in a smart watch.

The numbers fell off considerably for older groups, with ages 35 to 44 responding with 44 percent interested in smart glasses and 52 percent interested in a smart watch. Older age groups were much less interested.

The less than 50 percent interest in wearables has not limited Sony and other manufacturers of smart watches. On June 25, Sony announced the SmartWatch 2, with a 1.6-in. color LCD display, which ships globally in September.

In a statement with the announcement, Sony noted that 41 million smart watches will be sold by 2016. “The future of wearable devices is incredibly bright,” said Stefan Persson, head of companion products at Sony Mobile.

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