The wearable device market has yet to take off. Even with Samsung Corp. and its colorful lineup of Gear smart watches, and now Apple Inc. with the recent launch of the Apple Watch, consumers are still not flocking to the category. But a recent GfK survey showed that consumers in some parts of the world are interested in the payment functionality of smart watches.
GfK's August 2014 online survey of 1,000 smartphone users in each of the following markets China, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States showed that consumers are excited about the potential of smart watches as mobile wallets for mass transit ticketing, as security access devices for their computers and online accounts, and as depositories for personal healthcare data.
Smartphones as payment devices are less popular, but pockets of enthusiasm for the payment potential of wearable devices provides room for optimism. "In America and China, there is openness for using smart watches as identity cards and payment systems, although Europeans are much more hesitant about these functions," GfK said.
GfK found that, in China, 54 percent of smartphone users are interested in using smart watches to conduct mobile payments: 40 percent of U.S. consumers are similarly enthused. But the numbers substantially drop off from there, with South Korea registering only 28 percent of smartphone users excited about the payment potential of smart watches, followed by the U.K. (27 percent) and Germany (20 percent).
"Mobile payment, i.e. using a smartphone to pay at the checkout with near field communication (NFC) technology, hasn't proved very popular so far," GfK said. "In theory, using a smart watch at the checkout would be even more convenient than getting out a smartphone."
When GfK aggregated the numbers, the overall number of smartphone users in the combined markets came out to only 35 percent who were intrigued by the smart-watch payment possibilities. But there is always the potential that when consumers become comfortable with wearable devices for other functions, they will warm to the idea of using smart watches to conduct contactless payments.
Almost half (46 percent) of those surveyed across the five countries were interested in using smart watches as access devices for healthcare records, especially for doctor appointments and medical emergencies. But that figure needs to be parsed out country by country. GfK said 69 percent of those surveyed in China are willing to entrust sensitive health information to a smart watch; that number drops to 50 percent in the United States, 43 percent in South Korea, 34 percent in the U.K., and 25 percent in Germany.
When broken down by gender, GfK came up with further insights about using smart watches for digital healthcare records. "Men are rather more open to this idea than women and the difference between age groups is even more marked, with interest in using a smart watch for their health data increasing with age," GfK said.
GfK also found that travel ticketing functionality has great potential for smart watches. Chinese consumers led the way, with 63 percent expressing interest in mobile smart watch ticketing, compared with Koreans (54 percent) and U.S. consumers (41 percent).
Additionally, smart watches are seen by a little less than half of all survey participants as positive identity verification devices, especially given the rise in cyber crime. "Overall, 45 percent of respondents say they would be interested in using a smart watch as secure identification to log on to personal computers or access online accounts," GfK said. "Interest in this function increases with age, starting at 42 percent of those aged 16-29, and rising to 46 percent of 30-49 year-olds and 48 percent of the over-50s."
As in the other categories, Chinese consumers were most enthusiastic, with 68 percent liking the identity verification capacity of smart watches for online activity, followed by the U.S., South Korea, the U.K. and Germany, at 49, 37, 33 and 25 percent, respectively. The Chinese were also the most enthused about using smart watches as de facto ID cards, at 57 percent, with Americans the second most interested group, at 41 percent.
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