More insight into wearables in Japan: Local firm Omron rules the roost
If you look hard, then wearable technology is available in Japan – although the landscape is different. It’s a local firm, Omron, that rules the roost in movement tracking, although it appears that the Japanese aren’t so keen on smart wristbands.
Earlier this week, we posted that wearable tech is nowhere to be seen in Japan, and that’s true, unless you look really hard. And where else to find cool new wearables than Akihabara, the Tokyo district famous for its electronics stores.
Judging by the size and variety of the line-up, basic pedometers are still selling well, while wristbands are slow to catch on. Despite rival Japanese firm Sony announcing a smart wristband earlier this year (which is still yet to launch), the only actual tech band that is on general sale is the Jawbone UP – both the “plug-in version” and the UP24. There is no sign of the Nike FuelBand or any others like the Polar Loop or Misfit Shine.
Fitbit is focusing on selling the One and Zip belt-mounted models, and this is probably a smart move since Kyoto-based Omron is offering a huge selection of models, starting with pedometers priced around ¥2070 (around US $20) and rising to a ¥6770 model (US $67) which syncs with the iPhone 4S and above. No sign of an Android-compatible model.
Why aren’t wristbands big in Japan?
Underlining the theory that Japanese consumers don’t want to walk around sporting a silicon wristband, in-store advertising for the flagship ¥6770 WalkScan model highlights that the device is out-of-sight… it is also almost 25 percent cheaper than the ¥8770 (US $87) Fitbit One.
Omron is known in the US for its blood pressure monitors and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) pain relief devices, which are also part of its healthcare division, alongside the pedometers. In Japan, Omron also sells a range of sleep trackers capable of syncing with iPhone 4S and above, and selected Android devices.
These feature “intelligent wake-up”, which means they try to wake the user up to 30 minutes ahead of an alarm, coinciding with light sleep. The top-of-the-range model costs ¥6150, or around US $61.
Button-style movement trackers are also on sale. There’s a Japanese equivalent to Shine, from the firm Karadafit (website in Japanese only).
As well as clipping on to any item of clothing, there’s a wristband and some cool-looking jewelry designs. This would explain why wearable technology may be catching on, but out of sight, in Japan.