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Tech-Styles: Are Consumers Really Interested in Wearing Tech on their Sleeves?

2 minute read | March 2014

As more consumers carry mobile devices wherever they go, high-tech brand manufacturers recently put wearable technology front and center during CES in Las Vegas and at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Seventy percent of consumers are already aware of “wearables,” and about one in six (15%) of them currently use wearable tech—such as smart watches and fitness bands—in their daily lives. With experts predicting wearable tech to be the next big thing in consumer electronics, Nielsen asked consumers about the kinds of gadgets they would wear in the new Connected Life Report.

To understand the appeal of wearable tech, who better to turn to than those who are already using these devices. The majority of wearables owners are young, with nearly half (48%) between 18-34 years old, and men and women are equally likely to don wearable tech. Perhaps not surprisingly, three-quarters of wearables owners consider themselves “early adopters” of technology (while only 25% consider themselves “mainstream”). And to support their love of the latest devices, these digital trendsetters typically have more disposable income, with 29 percent making over $100,000. Among wearable tech owners, fitness bands were the most popular devices (61%), followed by smart watches (45%) and mHealth (mobile health) devices (17%).

What motivates consumers to purchase wearable tech depends largely on the type of device and the benefits each offers for their everyday lives. Smart watch owners say the top reason they purchased was for convenience, and more than a third (35%) said the purchase was to supplement their smartphone addiction. In comparison, a majority (57%) of fitness band buyers said the ability to self-monitor was a major factor, along with concern for their health.

When choosing wearable tech, consumers look for special features to fit their needs and match their style. Smart watch users find functionality (81%) and comfort (79%) of the utmost importance, while fitness band owners rank accuracy (70%) and battery life (64%) as the most important attributes. Durability of wearable devices was also critical to owners of smart watches (82%) and fitness bands (73%)

So while early adopters have taken interest in wearable tech, what will motivate the majority of consumers to adopt these devices? Nearly half of Americans surveyed expressed their interest in purchasing wearable tech in the near future. But cost will likely be a limiting factor—72 percent of users said they wish wearables were less expensive. Another barrier to entry could be fashion, as 62 percent said they wish wearables came in forms besides wrist bands and watches, and 53 percent wanted wearable devices that look more like jewelry. This market will likely continue evolving—consumers are already looking for new form factors in wearable designs, including smart glasses and textiles, for their future purchases.


Insights from Nielsen’s Connected Life Report were gathered from general population survey of adults 18 years or older that consisted of 3,956 respondents who are either current users or non-users with high interest in Connected Life technologies. Respondents completed an online, self-administered survey early November 2013. The sample includes 2,313 respondents interested in connected-wearable technology.

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