Here’s an interesting take: The future success of the wearables market will come down to manufacturers willingness to charge a subscription fee, and, in turn, consumers willingness to pay for it.
That’s the idea posited in a recent Wired post by senior writer Lauren Goode. Goode bases this concept off of a real-world example in Whoop—a fitness tracking manufacturer that targets professional athletes and Fortune 500 CEOs. According to the piece, Whoop has been charging professional and collegiate sports teams anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per player for access to the company’s in-depth analytics. Regular customers can also try the nylon activity tracker and platform for a $500 fee.
Starting today, though, Whoop announced it is rolling out a subscription service for access to the analytics platform as well as the fitness tracker itself. So, the company will no longer sell the Whoop band as a standalone product, which means consumers will only be able to get the device by signing up for the $30-per-month program. (Those who already own the band will be grandfathered into the service, while newcomers will have to pay these monthly dues—including an up-front six-month commitment.)
It’s certainly an interesting business model for a wearable manufacturer, and one that—in all honesty—is probably the way to go for this market. Think about it: It’s almost a running joke in the consumer tech space that someone will buy one of these wearable gizmos, wear it religiously for a few months tops, and then it ends up “lost” in a drawer somewhere, never to be strapped on their wrist ever again.
However, if a consumer is paying a certain amount of money every month to have access to that product and some level of in-depth analytics, my guess is they’d be more likely to not forget about that product. Subscription-based wearables might be a hard sell up front for the consumer—and it certainly would limit the number of wearables one might “purchase”—but this type of coercion on the part of the manufacturer appears necessary at this point.
With the exception of the Apple Watch, the wearables market is not putting its best foot forward right now. Fitbit, once the category’s top-dog, has seen its sales lag. Nokia is shedding its wearables business. And Google’s Wear OS platform, despite recent rumors of upcoming products, hasn’t appeared on a new device in over a year. So how this Whoop subscription program ends up performing is something this market will definitely be keeping its eye on.
What We’re Reading
- Uber announced that it has ended mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual harassment claims, opening the door for employees to sue the company directly. (WSJ)
- Tests of embedded fingerprint scanners show that Apple could have put the feature on its iPhone X. (9 to 5 Mac)
- Google employees are reportedly starting to quit in protest of Project Maven, the program Google is developing with the Department of Defense using its machine learning algorithms to help drones identify and track objects. (CNET)