Companies are excited about the wearables market. How can they convince consumers?


Google's released some details about the software it's providing for wearables but is expected to unveil much more this week. (Courtesy of Motorola)

We've been hearing for months now about how wearable technology is poised to be the next big thing in consumer technology. Think watches that give you real-time traffic updates, brooches that remind you to fix your posture or Google Glass. But so far, the hype seems to be outstripping actual demand from consumers. Google, which has designed an operating system called Android Wear just for these devices, is expected to unveil details this week on how to make wearables appear exciting for consumers.

The promise: Wearing your tech should cut the amount of time you spend as a smartphone zombie staring down at the palm of your hand.

YouTube video released last week showed off some more details about how Google's wearable devices will work. According to the short video, the software relies heavily on voice commands and gets rid of the grid layout on smartphones. Instead, you just tell the watch to send a text or open an app, and it will do it for you.

The Google details are the latest clues to how companies are hoping to market the sector. Samsung, Motorola and LG are all rumored to be announcing more details this week on previously announced smartwatch models using Android Wear, CNET reported.

Overall, around 1.2 million smartwatches were sold in 2013, according to the research firm Strategy Analytics. That's still a small market.  But the promise is there: Most of the sales, the research firm said, were driven by Samsung's Galaxy Gear.

That's somewhat surprising given how clunky the Dick Tracy-esque smartwatch was; it debuted to lukewarm reviews and was replaced by a second-generation version within months. But sales have continued to grow: up 250 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2014.

All of this, of course, comes against the growing backdrop of speculation that Apple will be releasing its own wearable device -- nicknamed the "iWatch" by tech bloggers -- before the end of the year. Two reports last week, from the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, cited unnamed sources who say that the wearable device will finally hit stores this fall and will come in several colors.

Apple's rumored watch is expected to be focused on health and fitness at first, given the recent unveiling of "Health," its upcoming hub for aggregating information from other apps.  But there's plenty of speculation that the company will expand the scope of its smartwatch to be a smartphone companion and jump onto the wearables wave.

Watches aren't the only things worth watching at the moment in the wearable world. Google hasn't, by any means, abandoned its Glass headset. On Monday, the company expanded its U.S.-only beta program to developers in Great Britain. The company also officially began selling Google Glass frames designed by Diane von Furstenberg on its own site and on the site of online retailers Net-A-Porter.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Hayley Tsukayama · June 23