Is the next big thing dead before it even got here? In an Easter weekend bloodbath Nike (NKE) announced heavy layoffs in its hardware group. Though the company is lightly denying the news it would seem the FuelBand is dead. The move could mark the beginning of the post-peak era for wearable devices just days (or weeks or even months) before Apple (AAPL) announces its endlessly discussed smart watch.
As it turns out even the most self-absorbed generation of Americans in history eventually get sick of looking at their own data.
The immediate appeal of the fit-band is obvious. “How much do I sleep?” “Do I exercise enough?” “Why won’t you pay attention to me!” All of these questions were answered and then some with Nike’s FuelBand, the Jawbone and other wearable devices of varying quality. As discussed with Lauren Lyster in the attached clip, I was a devoted wearer of a Jawbone for months. Every night I'd put it into sleep-mode to log my rest. Five or even six times a week I'd dutifully log my gym time and track my steps.
It was a fantasy of self-information. I no longer had simply a vague sense that I didn't sleep enough. Now I knew it for a fact. In fact, thanks to my my Jawbone I knew every meaningful stat and measure of health I could want.
As it turns out I go to the gym slightly more than 5-times a week, sleep just under 5 hours a night and take 9,654 steps on an average day. As I accumulated that information it went from fascinating to mundane to pointless. I don’t sleep enough, spend a lot of time in the gym and should walk more, I suppose. There wasn't a value adding element to my Jawbone because it didn't tell me anything I didn't already suspect, know or not care about in the least.
Ultimately my Jawbone was just a pricy nag that I kept forgetting to charge. A few months ago I realized forgetting to charge the wristband had morphed into forgetting it entirely. In fact I hadn't thought about the Jawbone at all until the news hit that Nike had ditched its FuelBand.
All of these realizations fly directly in the face of the long anticipated wearable device revolution. We’re presumably on the cusp of a whole new generation of watch-like gadgets that tell us our heart rates, protect us from sunburns and warn us about any number of potential health risks.
The problem is our bodies are already pretty well equipped when it comes to tracking these things. A couple months of Jawbone devotion only told me what I already knew. For the mock-ups of the devices we've seen so far nothing coming from Apple, Samsung or Google (GOOG) is going to advance the ball in terms of our health or lifestyle choices.
They're just toys. Expensive, cool and ultimately useless. If you're tired you need more sleep. You should walk more. If you don't go to the gym or exercise regularly a smart watch won't change that fact unless it comes with an app that lightly electrocutes users as a punishment for sloth.
The problem is the people who are workout regulars already have an app that punishes them for sloth. It's called their conscience and it never needs charging.
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