This article was first published in the March edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends.
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Are wearables the Next Big Thing, the most cutting edge development in tech? So far, consumers have responded with a resounding, “Eh.” While 80% of online adults now use a smartphone, less than 10% of the same group has embraced wearable technology. Despite continuous expansion among wearable options, global adoption has been painfully slow—with the exception of the ever-upgrading Asian millennial set.

As clear as the data seems to be on the lagging growth of wearable sales, some companies are still bullishly optimistic. Cisco forecasts a five-fold increase in wearable devices by 2019 and are upgrading their mobile capabilities accordingly. Brands are continuously adding functionality to their wearable products, many by linking them to existing smartphone technologies. Globally, biometric wearables designed to read individual body cues seem like the most promising area for development, using your heartbeat as a passcode or turning your data output into haute couture.

To say iPhones and other status smartphones have become hot commodities in Asia, particularly China, is the definition of an understatement. A few weeks ago Apple placed an order for 5-6 million smartwatches, many of which they plan to sell in Asian markets. As a whole, 25-34 year old Asian Pacific males—flush with cash and desperate to show off their latest gadget-are the fastest-growing segment of wearable adopters. Millennials, of course, are more likely to purchase wearables worldwide but are ultimately sticklers for functionality; FitBits and GoPros fit the bill. About 10% of millennials in a recent study reported they’d wear a technology product if it made them more desirable to the opposite sex… even if that product was as nerdy as Google Glass. At CES we continued to see the evolution of fashion-able-wear-ables such as Tori Burch and Fitbit, where all devices are moving toward blending with everyday jewelry, so your watch no longer screams, “I’m monitoring myself.”

Today’s wearables can be life-savingly useful or a fashion statement to look at, but usually not both. Issues like short battery life and questionable accuracy seem poised to plague the industry for years to come. Until it’s all sorted out marketers will continue to invest in mobile ads to get some equity out of the 30+ exabytes of data mobile devices are burning through each year. Will all that data eventually pass through watches, glasses, and rubber bracelets before hitting cyberspace? Only time will tell.