CES: Can You Find Wearables Under $20?
Published on: 11th Jan 2014
By: Ian Mansfield
Off the main expo floor at International CES you'll find row upon row of inexpensive gadgets made in Asia from glitzy smartphone cases to cheap tablets to speakers. This is nothing new at the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas but lurking among the multitude of tech you might expect to see were some items from the hottest category at CES this year wearable technology.
Health trackers and smart watches from Shenzhen and Taiwan were spotted in the smaller booths at the Venetian Expo. These weren't the familiar products in the wearables category such as the Fitbit Force and Nike FuelBand or the newest such as the Sony Core and SmartBand and LG Lifeband Touch that were on display over in the cavernous halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but it wasn't just "knockoffs" either -- there were some signs of innovation.
Some of the products on display, such as the Walkingspree activity tracker manufactured by Joint Chinese, a Shenzhen-based company, which looked eerily similar to some activity trackers available in the United States, are only available in large quantities. In-booth representatives quoted the pricing for this Bluetooth-enabled, lightweight (9 grams) activity tracker with an on-screen display at $18 per unit for 10,000 units.
Others, such as the Wime NanoSmart smart watch, are available for purchase on Amazon at prices still well below more familiar brand names. For $125, you could get a Dick Tracy-like device from the Taiwan-based company that has a slot for a GSM SIM card, Bluetooth and a 240×240 touchscreen LCD. The higher-end Wi-Watch A3 goes for $85, according to a representative in the trade show booth, but that price was for bulk purchases only. The A3 runs Android 4.2, has a micro-SIM slot, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and a 320×240 touch-screen resolution.
While many of the companies exhibiting were primarily manufacturers searching for distribution channels to enter the United States, some had already found customers. Taiwan-based Maxwell Guider Technology, a design and manufacturing company, for one, had already inked a deal with Giant Bicycles.
A common complaint about health and activity trackers is battery life. Maxwell Guider Technology was showing its Power Watch, which uses a combination of familiar battery tech and low-power consumption to address such power concerns. The company's Power Watch uses a disposable coin battery that it says will last 6 months and an e-Ink display that draws little energy. Booth personnel quoted a $79 street price.
Another exhibitor, Health & Life Company, based in Taiwan, was focused completely on the healthy lifestyle market with a heart monitor, connected watch and smartphone app that retails for $300. The company was hoping to capture the attention of distributors and companies in the United States.
If the buzz at CES is any indication, the wearables market is only going to get hotter as big brands compete for consumers' wrists and wallets with activity trackers and smart watches, but the China tech ecosystem is already producing inexpensive products in the category.