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Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers Struggling to Attract New Buyers

August 30, 2017, 2:11 PM UTC

While one in five consumers owns some kind of smart wearable device like an Apple Watch or Fitbit Charge, there is little interest in buying such a gadget among the other 80% who don’t have one yet, according to a new survey.

Wearable ownership jumped to 20% among consumers age 16 and up from 15% last year, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said on Wednesday. But among the vast majority of people haven’t bought into the trend yet, less than 5% say they will “probably” or “definitely” purchase one in the next 12 months.

That’s not great news for Fitbit, which has struggled over the past year as its sales of fitness trackers sank, or Apple (AAPL), which has had modest success, but not an outright hit, with its smartwatch. Still, some additional sales growth could from current owners who decide to upgrade. Fitbit has said about one-quarter of its new device activations come from repeat customers, for example.

Both companies hope to boost sales with new products for this holiday season. Fitbit unveiled its Ionic smartwatch on Monday and Apple is widely rumored to be announcing the third generation of Apple Watch at an event on September 12.

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Among the reasons given for the lack of interest in wearables, 45% of survey respondents cited the high cost, 32% said a lack of functionality, 30% said they don’t wear a watch, and 24% said a smartphone did everything they needed. Respondents were allowed to pick more than one reason.

Fitbit’s (FIT) effort to move up the value chain from simpler–and less expensive–fitness trackers to the higher-end smartwatch category is smart, Dominic Sunnebo, global strategic insight director at the market research firm said in a report on the wearables market. The number of smartwatches in use rose 50% over the past year while activity trackers gained only 15%.

The new Ionic, which will sell for $300, is waterproof, has built in GPS sensors, and a four-day battery life in typical usage, Fitbit says.

“The announcement of the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch with a four-day battery life could be a game changer, resolving an issue that vexes many consumers,” Sunnebo noted.