2014 Is Not the Year for Wearable Tech

2014 will bring an influx of wearables, but gains aren't likely to come until next year.

Feb 3, 2014 at 8:00PM

It's hard not to anticipate what technology companies are building, or supposedly building, in the burgeoning wearables space. Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) already has Glass, Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) has its Galaxy Gear smart watch and is rumored to launch a Glass competitor, and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is (constantly) rumored to be releasing an iWatch.

Source: Google.

With all the current wearables available from the top tech companies, and more on the way, can investors hope to make a pile of cash off these new devices this year?

Probably not. At least not this year anyway.

If you're a tech investor, you're likely looking at which companies are poised to benefit most from wearables, which is logical and likely a wise move. But even though we're just at the beginning of 2014, there's still a lot of ground that needs to be covered before investors see a payoff from wearable tech.

Overcoming the creepy factor
Let's start with two high-profile wearable gadgets currently on the market: Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Google launched Glass last year and has released the device on a limited basis. Google recently opened up Glass to more users by allowing those with unlimited Google Play Music accounts to apply for the device. But, overall, testing of the glasses has been limited. 

Google likely wants to keep a stronghold on supply in order to keep demand high, but also because the device is unlike anything the public has ever tested before. There's a huge learning curve for Google, users, lawmakers, and the general public. For this reason, Google investors likely won't stand to benefit from the revolutionary product just yet.

Even if Google launched a consumer version later this year that cost around $300 to $400, there's still a lot of social etiquette that will have to be overcome before Glass becomes a prolific device. Which means it could take until next year before Google sees its bottom line grow because of device and app sales. Though 2014 may be the year Google Glass launches for the common man, I think the device is still too futuristic for Google's bottom line to benefit this year. The future maybe now, but profits will come later.

Smartwatch Samsung Galaxy

Galaxy Gear. Source: Samsung.

Samsung's smart watch fumble
While Samsung deserves credit for trying its hand at a smart watch before Apple, the Galaxy Gear has been, well, sort of a failure.

The Gear proves that the first one out of the gate isn't always the winner. Samsung will need to build a much better product the second time around if they want to see real monetary gains from the device. Samsung says its shipped about 800,000 Galaxy Gears, but hasn't disclosed actual sales numbers from those shipments.

For this reason, investors shouldn't bank on Samsung winning the smart watch market or making big profits from the next iteration of the device, especially this year.

A promising option
If there's a tech company that knows how not to rush to market and get user demand right, it's Apple. At this point, it's hard to believe Apple won't release a smart watch for the masses. CEO Tim Cook has said, "I think the wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural." Though that's obviously not an admission Apple is manufacturing a smart watch, reports are increasing that an iWatch device is in the works.

Here's why I don't think investors will benefit this year from an iWatch, though: Apple sells devices for mass consumption, but smart watches are still a niche product. Macs, the iPod, iPad, and iPhone are all products for everyone. They may be priced at the high end, but they're created for everyone to use. This is part of Apple's product philosophy and it means that Apple won't release such a device until it's figured how to make the device appealing to the mass market.

I think there are two ways to do this: Make it so simple and inexpensive that it makes sense for the millions of iPhone users to pick one up or make it such an incredible stand-alone smart device that users see its usefulness right away.

Either way, I think Apple would release such a device toward the end of the year so it can benefit from holiday sales. If that's true, then Apple investors wouldn't start to see a real benefit form the device until early 2015. In addition to that, wearable smart watches are an unproven segment, so user adoption may be slow and could subsequently keep initial sales low.

Foolish thoughts
Some may think I'm being a bit skeptical of the wearable trend, but it's more that I'm just skeptical that it will skyrocket company revenue, and stock prices, this year. Wearables are definitely a big part of our technological future, but it's going to take a while for the general public to adapt to these devices, which will keep sales relatively low compared other smart devices.

According to IHS, wearable tech shipments will hit 130 million by 2018. I hope investors see those estimates realized, but if you're looking for explosive growth in the industry right now, you may want to wait until next year.

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Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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