Jakarta. As technology grows more accessible, gadgets and gizmos are becoming inseparable accessories of everyday life. Instead of carrying them along with us, demand has tech companies creating products that we can easily carry on our bodies. Wearable technology — may it be in the form of smart watches, smart clothing, smart glasses or smart jewelry — is on the verge of revolutionizing the market.
Despite the rising popularity of wearables, a basic introduction to the technology is still necessary. Comma Coworking Space in Woltermonginsidi, South Jakarta, recently hosted a talk themed “WearTalk vol. 1: Pebble and the Possibility of Wearables," which saw Rangga Sanjaya, the founder of Pebble smartwatch community Pebblenesia; tech blogger Ario Pratomo; and chief operating officer for web design firm Wearinasia, Albert Sudartanto, discuss the emergence of wearables and their role in everyday life.
Ario spoke of how he uses the Pebble device for sports and to track his health. Rangga touched on the more practical uses of wearables, such as receiving notifications, messages and calendar reminders. So does this mean smartphones will be replaced by smartwatches?
“The smartwatch has a wide variety of functions that, most of the time, seem to overlap with those of smartphones. But I think they will not replace the role of smartphones; they will serve as a companion for smartphones,” Rangga says.
“In the future, things will get more interesting with big players starting to enter the niche. Apple has already released its iWatch and the market will be crowded with many options,” he continues. “Their designs are currently relatively bulky and unattractive, but Android Wear has been working with luxury watch brands, such as Tag Heuer and Fossil.”
Tag Heuer is rumored to release their 18-carat gold Adroid Wear smartwatch around October or November with a $1,400 price tag. The luxury brand will be also be working with Intel to produce their usual classic watch with added smart features.
Meanwhile, the brand's homegrown rival Withings Activité has launched their classic-looking watch with a built-in alarm and activity trackers. A swim tracker will be available by the end of June as promised on the company's official website.
Apple's highly anticipated offer was officially released on April 24 but is yet to be made available in most physical stores. According to Tech Radar, the Apple Watch can be purchased in nine countries, including the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan. The rest of the world will have to wait until June.
Pebble is more affordable than the classic analog and Apple. Crowdfunded through funding platform Kickstarter, Pebble managed to raise $10.3 million and succeeded in selling one million smartwatches two years after its launch. Their third venture Pebble Time will have a 64-color e-paper display. Unlike most of their competitors, which need to be recharged every one to two days, Pebble offers up to seven days' battery life. To deal with bulky design, Pebble utilizes smartstraps that contain sensors to provide users with useful features.
However, buyers still need to be careful when choosing their smartwatch. According to Ario, the most common problem with current devices are the straps.
“There are no straps dedicated for sport-wear just yet, but it’s relatively easy to change the straps. For Pebble, they have straps made of rubber, stainless steel, leather and canvas. However, we need to beware of odor if we use canvas straps for sport.”
The wearables market
Thanks largely to smartwatches, the wearables market is expanding rapidly. According to a Business Insider Intelligence consumer survey, the global wearable market is estimated to grow 35 percent annually for the next five years, with smartwatches making up 59 percent of the total products sold this year.
In Indonesia, according to Rangga, the big three in smartwatches are Android watch, Apple Watch and Pebble. Each has its own fan community, although the only official community for smartwatches currently belongs to Pebble. Pebblenesia has since its establishment in 2013 attracted members from across the archipelago and overseas. Besides acting as a means for sharing all-things related to Pebble, the community serves as a marketplace for smartwatches.
Rangga believes that the current market for wearable technology is still dominated by e-commerce.
“Online stores offer more choices for wearables,” he says.
Rangga has also opened the doors to a wearable shop in the “re-branded” Pasar Santa traditional market in South Jakarta that offers a variety of wearable products, including Pebble, Moto 360, Xiaomi Yi camera, Google Cardboard and a range of accessories.