One question is dominating the narrative as the wearables market grows: what will be bigger – hardware or software?

In the old world of personal computers Microsoft and Apple captured most of the value while hardware producers, with the exception of microchip producer Intel, were left to compete mostly on price.

Will wearables be different?

Innovation abounds already – for example the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has created a new metricPersonal Activity Intelligence or PAI, which crunches your wearable data to provide a measure of your actual health.

Advances like this indicate we’re beginning to see some developing maturity in wearable software. Apps with new offers will continue to grow, but one thing that sets wearables apart from computers and mobile devices is their relationship to fashion.

(Note: Digital culture is changing the way retailers need to operate – Building the Digital Experience)

Getting the most for your money with a computer or phone might mean you’re willing to skip the Apple brand and go for a less fashionable brand, but when choosing your wearables you might put more emphasis on matching tech designs to different outfits.

One example of this has emerged from social media – Beyoncé didn’t bother to charge her Apple Watch before posting Instagram photos. According to Misfit Wearables CEOs the trend of donning wearables both charged and uncharged is widespread because fashion can be a bigger driver than functionality.  Some fashion players moving into wearables through partnerships are: Fossil, Tag, Swarovski, Guess, Oakley, RayBan, Henry Holland, Diane von Furstenburg. Undoubtedly this list will get longer as wearables see greater adoption levels.

Most wearable tech doesn’t focus exclusively on the fashion side, which may be a reason brand partnerships could see a great deal of success.

Amy Winters is one designer who is ahead of the trend, designing clothes that incorporate tech that changes display depending on environmental stimulus. Other companies are taking this even further by blending the lines between fashion and functionality. For example Wearable Solar has created garments that charge a smartphone.

It’s likely that fashion will play a large role in differentiation amongst wearables. Current trends demonstrate that some customers simply put fashion before functionality in the wearables market.

Check out these new wearable toys that are already making fashion their key selling point – in this market, hardware may remain as important as software.

Learn More:

Building the Digital Experience

Personal Activity Intelligence

Wearable tech is now a legitimate fashion statement. Really.

20 wearables that are more chic than geek