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Few takers for wearable gadgets in India: Phone makers

Few takers for wearable gadgets in India: Phone makers
Wearable devices may be the next big thing in the tech arena, but they will find very few takers in India anytime in the near future.
NEW DELHI: Wearable devices may be the next big thing to hit the world of telecom, but they will find very few takers in India anytime in the near future, some handset makers and experts say. 

Karbonn Mobiles, India's third largest smartphone seller, feels that wearable technology including Android Wear announced recently by Google, is only an accessory but the company may consider developing wearable devices on a trial basis. Wearable devices are "more of a fad." 

"There are very few tangible use cases and it's more of an accessory", said Shashin Devsare, executive director at Karbonn Mobiles. He was speaking on the sidelines of launching three smartphone models, which will help the company increase annual revenue to Rs 8,000 crore in the financial year 2014-15, 60% higher than in the current fiscal year. 

On Tuesday, Google announced Android Wear, an operating system tailored for smartwatches and wearable technology. LG and Motorola have said that they will come out with G Watch and Moto 360 in this category. 

Google is working with leading multinational device makers like Samsung, Asus and HTC and chipmakers, including Qualcomm, Intel and Mediatek, for spreading this technology for wider adoption. 

"We have to see how they (wearable devices) have progressed in the world. India is a follower market for technology and gadgets. And wearables are yet to take off globally," said Jayanth Kolla, co-founder and partner at research firm Convergence Catalyst. 

Chinese smartphone maker Gionee's India head Arvind Vohra concurred that a mobile phone was the key utility product and added that most Indians were yet to upgrade to smartphones from feature phones, which meant a further step up was still far away. 

"This is a pure marketing exercise. Bluetooth hasn't worked. Today the biggest wearable device that we see is the headset. Beyond that, how many wearable devices are you going to use," Vohra said. 

Pricing would also be a big hurdle in a price sensitive market like India, say experts. Sony and Samsung have launched their own versions of smartwatches, priced between nearly Rs 15,000 and Rs 19,000. 

Karbonn's Devsare said that wearable technology makers will have to bring down the cost of making these devices to retail between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 such that these products to go mainstream or to be used by a large number of people in India. 

"In India, it's all related to price. The people who see these devices and use these devices are all urban. The market is somewhere else," added Gionee's Vohra. 

However, Taiwanese chipset maker Mediatek's international sales and marketing head Finbarr Moynihan was of the view that wearable technology is imminent as a number of use case trends will emerge. For instance, health and fitness related watch-type formats which has been established and can be developed further to have superior sensory capabilities monitoring everything from temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels. 

"It's not for everyone but it's not a fad," he said while adding that the high-end smartphone users in the Indian market may be the early adopters of wearable technology as a fashion accessory or a complementary device to a smartphone, as they hold the same socio economic status and purchasing power as customers in some developed markets.

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