Apple’s CEO Tim Cook could barely hide his excitement as he unveiled the first truly new product under his leadership – the Apple Watch. The company has finally entered the world of wearables after much anticipation, but how exactly do consumers feel about the idea of owning a smartwatch?

Only 2% of consumers in the UK currently own a smartwatch, yet five times as many (10%) are considering purchasing one in the next three months – according to Mintel’s Digital Trends Autumn report. While the Apple Watch is not set to launch until early 2015, it is likely that consumers were waiting to see what Apple would bring to the party before deciding which smartwatch to buy, or whether to buy one at all. With a price point of $349 in the US, this is not a cheap accessory, no doubt a boost for the likes of Pebble and Motorola, whose devices will undercut it somewhat.

Looking more closely at consumer opinions, there is a degree of uncertainty surrounding smartwatches. Of those 10% of Brits who are considering buying a smartwatch, 31% said that they liked the idea of having one, but don’t actually know what they would use it for. Not only this, but 44% of those interested would like to try out a smartwatch for a few days before deciding whether to buy one. Despite this however, 37% of those interested in smartwatches expect them to become an everyday item in the future.

Brand loyalty is strong with Apple as nearly two-thirds (65%) of iPhone users say they would be unlikely to change smartphone brand when buying their next handset. However, it is questionable whether many consumers will invest yet in its Watch given their uncertainty about what they would actually use the device for (see above) and whether or not they would use enough of its features for it to justify its hefty price tag

Looking more broadly at smartwatch functions, Mintel’s Mobile Phones – UK 2014 report finds that some 6% of consumers would be interested in buying a smartwatch that lets them see notifications from their phone. Some 30% of these were current owners of an Apple phone, which indicates a relatively high (and far above average) interest in the device.

Smartwatches on the whole remain a very niche proposition – when used just as notification centres they remain very expensive ways of delaying the act of looking at a smartphone. Rarely, if ever, do they obviate the requirement for interaction with the larger device. Some smartwatches are presented as more complex computing devices, like the Apple Watch, which will have access to a plethora of apps and undoubted widespread developer support. However, there are very few functions they can fulfil which are not better served or more easily implemented on a smartphone screen.

The world has come to expect exciting, innovative Apple launches, but as consumers await the launch date of the Apple Watch, only time will tell if the sales cogs will turn smoothly.

Paul is a Senior Leisure and Technology Analyst at Mintel. Prior to joining Mintel in 2012, Paul held marketing roles within the Consumer Electronics sector for retailers such as Comet as well as manufacturing companies including Binatone Telecom PLC.

Samuel researches and writes Mintel’s consumer technology reports, investigating market trends and consumer attitudes. Prior to joining Mintel in 2011, he worked for an IT services company in London, providing support to clients in a wide range of industries and global locations.

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