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A Third of Consumers Who Bought Wearable Devices Have Ditched Them 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-waiting-on-a-smart-cummerbund dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Guardian reports on research (PDF) into the (alleged) wearable device trend: fully one third of customers who bought one stopped using it within six months. Activity trackers fared even worse: half of them are collecting dust. 'For comparison, you wouldn't find people from the early days of the smartphone saying that they'd abandoned their BlackBerry, Treo or Windows Mobile or Symbian phone. They were the early adopters, and they found utility in having email and (sometimes) web pages on the move. The idea of giving them up just wouldn't occur to them. ... So far, there aren't clear signs of quite what it is that smartwatches and fitness trackers are replacing, in the way that [early] music players did. Useful new technology has to replace or simplify some function, ideally; otherwise it has the challenge of persuading us that we need this entirely new thing. Smartphones are simpler ways to collect your email – and also make phone calls and surf the web (and so on). Fitness trackers... let you track your fitness. But given that 41% of people run with their smartphones, you might get by with a movement tracking app instead. The trouble with devices that claim to track your steps is they're so easily hoaxed by waving your arms around.'"
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A Third of Consumers Who Bought Wearable Devices Have Ditched Them

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  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:19AM (#46637955)

    Same as my experience with Wii owners, or other fads, like slap bracelets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sh00z (206503)
      Maybe they learned what they wanted to learn, and didn't "need" (in the first-world sense) the device any longer. I put a power meter on my bicycle. After about a year of riding and reading it, I could estimate from my perceived exertion just about what my power output was, so I removed the device.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        I don't use the heart rate strap on my Garmin watch too often either, although I use the GPS every day. Like you said, after a while you have a pretty good idea of what it would be saying based on how you feel.

        So, I think successful gadgets will combine something practical that people will always need, with something new and "exciting" that may or may not have long-term utility. Millions of people already wear watches, so I think smartwatches have chance if they aren't too much additional hassle to char

        • The problem with wearables is that they are by definition battery dependent. And if they're not low-powered enough to run for years on a battery like a traditional watch is, then the issue is going to be how useful are they vs. how much of a pain is it to remember to plug it in every day.

          I have two 7" Android tablets, and I never use either of them. Sure, for some of the stuff they can do, they do it better than my Android phone. But the phone is the thing that goes on the charger every night. And for a

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:53AM (#46638125)

      My kid still plays the Wii every weekend and it's actually one of the activities they do in his school for gym when it's raining out. My sister-in-law who's in a nursing home uses one as part of her physical therapy. Fad it is not.

      • by N1AK (864906)
        Fad doesn't mean that it ceases to exist entirely after the fad ends it means something that goes through a generally short period of intent interest before largely disappearing. That is certainly the case with the Wii which had huge sales initially, and was seen as the future of console gaming, but within half a console generation that view had evaporated.
        • by Thruen (753567) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @09:26AM (#46638393)
          http://www.forbes.com/sites/er... [forbes.com]

          Sorry. I kind of wish it was just a trend too, but the fact is, the Wii is still very popular with a lot of people. It seems like a joke to a lot of more "hardcore" gamers, but it's still dominant in a market that was largely ignored before: casuals. I don't play Wii much anymore, especially since I picked up a PS4, but when I do it's because my girlfriend still enjoys it more than any other platform we've tried, and we try every game we can to see if she's interested.

          Is it the future of console gaming? No. But for a lot of people it's all they'll ever need for a price they can easily afford.
        • Is everyone else missing the point that 2/3 of buyers of wearable devices are still using them after six months?

          You and I can protest all day that these things seem stupid to us, but like the Wii, describing them as a "fad" seems way off.

          • by unrtst (777550)

            Is everyone else missing the point that 2/3 of buyers of wearable devices are still using them after six months?

            That. And also the statement, "The idea of giving them up just wouldn't occur to them." (wrt early smartphone adopters) is rediculous. A large portion of early adopters of anything end up giving them up. That's part of the early adopter pattern... it's new and shiny, so they early adopt it, and then it's no longer new, so they move on. They may come back to those types of thing later, but it's normal for many people to give up up in the early days. For example, on my first phone with MMS, I set up an email

      • by DrLang21 (900992)
        They play the Wii in gym just because it's raining out? What they hell happen to the classic past times where children learn to endure pain like dodgeball, floor hocky, or my personal favorite, those finger crushing scooters!
    • The Wii is a console. I wouldn't call it a fad.
    • by ranton (36917)

      Same as my experience with Wii owners, or other fads, like slap bracelets.

      It is probably also the same as those who bought cars in the 1800s, mobile phones in the 80s, tablets in the 90s, and many other technologies in their infancy. Perhaps wearable technology is a fad, but the fact that a third of consumers who buy them end up not liking them is hardly an indicator of anything. At best it shows that the current products in the market are insufficient for most people.

  • by FunkyLich (2533348) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:21AM (#46637961)

    Wearable devices will not be massively popular unless they will be as simple to use as headphones. Plug and it works and you don't need to think anymore about them.
    There are many people I know who dislike bluetooth headphones just because after a while they get tired from sychronising them with the device, finding the proper frequency, there is noise and interference and whatever have you. Or they need something for a special purpose, such as to cheat at an exam hearing through a tiny invisible earplug deep in your ear what someone else at the next room is reading. But for normal people and normal life, either wearable devices will be as simple as switching on the TV, either the producers should really think targeting not "all the people there is" but selected target groups and usage specific audiences.

    • by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:35AM (#46638025)

      Wearable devices will not be massively popular unless they will be as simple to use as headphones.

      Maybe you are different but I don't carry headphones either and frankly I think headphones are a huge PITA. Headphones require all kinds of annoying cable wrangling or if wireless all kinds of unreliable setups that you are constantly dicking around with. Useful? Yes. Simple? Not so much.

      I carry precisely 3 items 99% of the time - phone, wallet and keys - and I'd do away with any of them if I had a reasonable way to do so. I don't mind carrying a fitness tracker if I'm actually doing exercise but otherwise the phone should serve that purpose. I don't want to wear a special purpose device unless I'm doing something rather specific. I don't wear a watch except on rare occasions because they serve little purpose these days (clocks are everywhere) and are annoying to wear if you don't have to.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I guess it depends on how you travel. If you travel mostly by car, there is little reason to have headphones most of the time, because you can't use them anyway. If you usually travel by public transit, having headphones is almost a necessity. Then again, I'll see people just sit there and do nothing for the entire transit trip. Perhaps they are thinking, but probably not, because they look bored out of their skull. I don't know why everyone isn't doing something on public transit now, be it reading, liste
        • by sjbe (173966)

          If you usually travel by public transit, having headphones is almost a necessity.

          Different strokes for different folks. I strongly disagree that it is anything resembling a necessity. Preference for many I'll concede but there is no requirement to be listening to something on headphones merely because you are traveling somewhere on public transit.

          Sitting there, doing nothing, just seems like such a waste of time.

          Personally I prefer to be aware of what's going on around me. I also use travel time to think about things I might not have time for otherwise. Sure, sometime its boring but I have plenty of ways of solving that that don't involve headphone

        • If you usually travel by public transit, having headphones is almost a necessity. Then again, I'll see people just sit there and do nothing for the entire transit trip.

          I find music pumped directly into my head stops me thinking. I'd far rather think.

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            Personally, I find that I often end up tuning out the music or podcasts when I'm listening to them what I start to think of something. They'll often mention something in a podcast, which will get me thinking about some other non-related issue, and I'll completely miss entire sections of podcasts.
      • I was the same until I found the right pair of headphones. Using an older version of the Walkman Z-series now - no cables other than a behind-the-neck, no plugs other than a tiny micro USB port. Other companies besides Sony make 'em now as well. MP3 player built in. They're perfect for what they were made for (podcasts) and eliminate the need to lug around separate headphones and an external music player. Love em to bits.
      • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @09:42AM (#46638523)

        Wearable devices will not be massively popular unless they will be as simple to use as headphones.

        Maybe you are different but I don't carry headphones either and frankly I think headphones are a huge PITA. Headphones require all kinds of annoying cable wrangling or if wireless all kinds of unreliable setups that you are constantly dicking around with. Useful? Yes. Simple? Not so much.

        I carry precisely 3 items 99% of the time - phone, wallet and keys - and I'd do away with any of them if I had a reasonable way to do so. I don't mind carrying a fitness tracker if I'm actually doing exercise but otherwise the phone should serve that purpose. I don't want to wear a special purpose device unless I'm doing something rather specific. I don't wear a watch except on rare occasions because they serve little purpose these days (clocks are everywhere) and are annoying to wear if you don't have to.

        Generally I agree with you and I can see your point with corded headphones but cordless (Bluetooth) ones work fine for me. I used to go through a ton of corded headphones. Usually they'd wear out due to metal fatigue just above the plug to save money. For years I used to shorten the chord and solder it back to the plug like a true penny pinching geek. Then I finally gave up and spent an obscene amount of money on a set of Sennheiser MM 550-X Bluetooth headphones. So far they have, well .... just worked. I also have a couple of sets of Sennheiser MM200 earplugs phones, also Bluetooth. Same story here, they just work. The first set finally wore out after three years of daily use so I bought a second one on sale since this model is out of production now. The only complaint I have so far is that the audio quality suffers a bit because of the Bluetooth link but not so much that I'd forgo the comfort of being wireless.

        Speaking of special purpose devices, what I'd really like for safety reasons is a __proper__ HUD for my car. There are after market ones but most of the suck, a HUD should be standard equipment in every car.

    • by sribe (304414)

      Well, there's that. And they also have to provide some functionality that users actually want. Before the iPhone, I could imagine wanting a pocket-sized device with a decent address book synced to my computer, and full web access, and nice apps. (Note, I am certainly not claiming that I anticipated the actual design, just that I could imagine wanting those particular functions in my pocket.) I cannot imagine anything that I really want a smart watch to do.

      • by N1AK (864906)
        I don't wear a watch and as I wear glasses I'd much prefer an enhanced pair of glasses over an additional wearable device. A watch doesn't provide a good input interface and it doesn't provide that much in terms of output to make wearing an additional device worthwhile over pulling a phone out of your pocket.
      • I cannot imagine anything that I really want a smart watch to do.

        Exactly. I don't carry a watch except rarely because it is A) redundant (my phone tells me the time), B) annoying to wear, and C) has limited functionality. The only time I really can imaging carrying a watch is for some specific task where I need certain data or sensors but weight or bulk is an issue. For instance when I'm jogging or doing some other athletic activity where a smartphone is too bulky to carry.

        • Yeah, that's the thing. I could see wearing a fitness tracker...when I'm exercising. But not all day. It's just going to tell me that I sit at a desk.

          Also, I do wear a watch, partly to tell time, but also as jewelry. It's the only jewelry a guy can really wear. I have a moderately expensive Ebel. It looks great, I get compliments on it, and I like looking at it and all shiny and everything. If I were to wear a smartwatch, it would have to look about as good as my Ebel, and I don't see that happening.

          Glasses

          • As you get older your priorities may well change. Playing at being a cyborg might become less interesting, and the reality of not being immortal, and possible chronic health conditions may make health monitoring products more attractive.

            There are many sorts of people that make a market, and we all change what sort of people we are as we age.

            • by sjbe (173966)

              As you get older your priorities may well change.

              Probably but I doubt I'll ever wear a watch. I'm just not that obsessed with time or showing off to justify the annoyance of wearing a watch if I don't really need to. I have one but I only really wear it when I'm hiking in rural areas or doing a competitive run. I don't object to wearing a health monitor should there be a need but in most cases I figure my cell phone (which I already carry) could probably do the job adequately for quite a few use cases. I'd be more interested in something like a fitbit

    • There are many people I know who dislike bluetooth headphones just because after a while they get tired from sychronising them with the device, finding the proper frequency, there is noise and interference and whatever have you.

      What bluetooth headphones are these people using? I've only had to pair mine once with each device I use it with, and never had to mess with changing frequencies. I have to charge it once a week for like 2 hours, but that's a fair trade-off for not having a wire attached.

    • by gigne (990887)

      Agreed. Simple wins. I have really thought that my Pebble would get forgotton as time went on, but I find it so easy and so convenient that I really miss it. The Pebble (unlike the gear) is simple, sleek and performs one function well. You barely even have to charge the thing.
      In a world where a clock on the wall is increasingly rare, having the time on your wrist is massively useful. Not everyone wants to drag a smartphone out just to tell the time.

      • by kyrsjo (2420192)

        Clocks on the wall are maybe rarer, but tons of other devices shows a clock on their displays, which perform much of the same function.

    • by invid (163714)
      I wear glasses, and if they suddenly had a HUD that was smart enough to keep out of my direct line of sight unless I wanted it, and if they had a camera and could understand some basic hand gestures from me, and make a virtual keyboard if necessary, and if they had headphones integrated into the part that rested on my ears, and if they were a smart phone and GPS and video camera and web browser, and if they didn't cost more than your average smart phone, and if they looked like normal glasses, I would be ok
    • by jandersen (462034)

      Wearable devices will not be massively popular unless they will be as simple to use as headphones

      - and give the user something they actually want or need. The smartphone is popular because it is flexible enough to cover a wide range of needs that people have, not because it is cool or "wearable". In fact, I suspect that being wearable often counts against a device, because it so often has to be worn in a highly specific way, unlike a phone, which you just stuff into a pocket, bag, glove compartment or whatever.

  • There is a segment of the population who will always covet the newest, latest, greatest, but fads are as quick to wane as the companies are to make your prize obsolete with a new model.
    • You've got remember most of these people still think the digital watch is a pretty neat idea :D
      • You've got remember most of these people still think the digital watch is a pretty neat idea :D

        There was a niche market for even that.

        We were required to pass a basic skills assessment test to advance a grade in school that included telling the time by the hands of the clock.

        I don't recall what grade it was, but one year there was a plausibly dyslexic chap who was rescued on the third makeup test by borrowing his grandfathers Pulsar.

      • A watch is a nice example of a wearable device. And today even more so than back when those lines were written, watches are worn as an accessory rather than for their function. In that light, it surprises me that most of the currently available "smart" watches are ugly as sin.
      • Just keep banging the rocks together, guys.

  • by fullback (968784) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:29AM (#46637997)

    wearable devices are a hit compared to the rate of married couples who stay together. Does that mean marriage is a fad?

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:32AM (#46638009)

    Pants have pockets. Phones fit in pockets. Problem solved. And I know that women tend to not use pockets - I cannot understand why - but they have purses and handbags that are specially designed to hold many things including a phone. Either way, the problem that a wearable smart gadget tries to solve is not a problem in the first place.

    Also, I don't have to track my fitness, because I am usually there myself to observe my fitness with my own eyes.

    • Women's clothing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:44AM (#46638071)

      And I know that women tend to not use pockets - I cannot understand why

      Because a lot of women's clothing tends not to have pockets. Can't use it if you can't buy it. Furthermore there are aesthetic reasons why they tend not to use pockets. Women have a different set of social pressures for appearance than men do.

      • The aesthetic reasons are stupid. Many pairs of women's pants have FAKE pockets. They look like pockets, but they are sewn shut. Dumbest thing ever.
        • by sjbe (173966)

          The aesthetic reasons are stupid.

          I'm just guessing here that you don't date a lot. Aesthetics matter whether we like it or not. Looking nice sometimes doesn't involved practicality for better or worse. I'm not exactly the most fashion forward guy myself but I understand that sometimes how I look is important. People care about how others look and no that isn't always stupid. It's only stupid when one makes harmful decisions based on aesthetics when the important information is not aesthetic. Dressing nicely isn't just for your bene

          • Re:Women's clothing (Score:4, Informative)

            by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @10:33AM (#46638993) Journal
            Actually, I'm a married woman wearing a pair of pants that have no pockets right now, and I'm annoyed because I thought they did when I bought them. (They even have fake silky hanging things on the inside - I usually feel around on the inside of pants before I buy them to see if the pockets are fake or real, and the presence of lining material behind them usually indicates they're real but sewn shut for display purposes. Nope! Not this pair. The material is a single layer thick. I don't know why they even bothered. I couldn't even take them back because I took them straight to get shortened after I bought them. Thankfully, the other pairs I bought that day did have real pockets.)

            In this particular case, the "aesthetic" appearance of pants that have pocket outlines but not pockets is dumb. Plain and simple. Either have real pockets, or don't even try to pretend and have the front panel of the pants be smooth.
    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Suit pants don't have the right shape if you stuff things like a phone in the pockets. The interior of the suit jacket is already occupied by the wallet.

      I would like to have a way to carry my phone when I'm wearing a suit, better than attached to the belt. A "watch" might be the solution but the existing solutions are not good enough to replace a smartphone.

      • by khallow (566160)

        The interior of the suit jacket is already occupied by the wallet.

        Use another pocket then. Most pants have two or more. I find the bigger problem is that my phone starts dialing people. I guess I should get a clamshell phone to keep that from happening.

        Having said that, I bet there are people who can't stand to have anything in their pockets. If they can tolerate wearing the smartphone in that situation, then that's a case where wearable works.

    • A device as heavy as a phone in a pocket while running is annoyingly unpleasant. I have a stretchy belt that holds mine snugly so it doesn't bounce. I suppose I'm agreeing with you. I don't need a wearable smart phone, I just need to wrap a thing around my smart phone which makes it wearable.

      Also, I don't have to track my fitness, because I am usually there myself to observe my fitness with my own eyes.

      Eh, what works for you and what works for others are just different things. I can observe my own fitne

  • it takes a licking, and......
  • The reason they don't take of is because they are niche. Fitbits only track fitness info. They don't do anything else. As much as we like to believe fitness is a necessity, it's not the #1 priority in most peoples lives so they are easy to forget to wear, and once you forget them for a day or two, you've lost the momentum and it's actually harder to get yourself to start caring again. Similar thing with the smart watch -- it can do a couple of things, but it's not really any more convenient for those th
    • by asylumx (881307)

      The reason they don't take off is because they are niche.

      My proof-reader is fired.

      • by jittles (1613415)

        The reason they don't take off is because they are niche.

        My proof-reader is fired.

        What sort of severance package do I get?

    • They're also really bad at what they claim to do. They don't work any better than pedometers. They claim to "capture any movement you do" but they are notoriously bad at picking up stationary exercise on equipment. I am probably going to cancel mine because it can't tell that I'm jogging on a treadmill. Oh sure, it picks up jogging on the road just fine, but it thinks that I am just jumping slightly in place when I walk or job on a treadmill.
  • I've got drawers full of returned windows mobiles and early smartphones. Blackberries and iPhones were of course very different, but early smart phone sales definitely were returned or misused a lot. I can see wearable being exactly the same way!

    Jason

    • by N1AK (864906)
      This is a fair point. Blackberry's were not the first smartphones, there was an extensive period of clunky win phone devices etc before this that were much harder to use and less convenient. I'm not sure that smart watches will follow the same path but it's pointless using smartphones as evidence they will fail.
  • by korbulon (2792438) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:55AM (#46638135)
    They're wearing them in the wrong place.
  • "You wouldn't find people from the early days of the smartphone saying that they'd abandoned their BlackBerry, Treo or Windows Mobile or Symbian phone."

    I absolutely abandoned my early Palm, I could only afford it because the guy was selling it for a loss after he too abandoned it, it ran through batteries like crazy, had limited utility, and frankly a paper notepad was vastly more useful than "Graffiti" It's a very strange assertion because we don't have the metrics of these early devices, they weren't conn

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      At least with your Palm you understood that you wanted something like that, but better. I don't think there's too many people who feel the same way about smartwatches that aren't the Pebble.

  • Wearable tech died because people realized 2x the batteries to worry about and needless cost doesn't justify a bulky and annoying device attached to you with very little benefit. Netbooks died when people realized you can't type on them very well and can't see the screen. For the exact same reason plus the unbelievably short useable life rating and failure rate, why are tablets still around? They're netbooks with no keyboards.
  • But I don't wear it, my bike does.

  • since the US Govt wants to take the internet out of ICANN's hands and hand over control of the internet to an international body, plus the NSA has turned everything that has internet connectivity in to their own spy tool, this makes me want to abandon the internet and cancel my ISP account and pull the plug on the cable box to my house, and next just go almost completely off the grid by reducing my utilities to water so i can use the toilet, bathe & shower and do laundry, and the only electronic device
  • It's weird that the article leads with the Galaxy Gear, which is pretty much useless, so there's no surprise that people want to dump them.

    The numbers on activity trackers are more interesting. I currently have a Fitbit on one wrist, and a Basis activity tracker on the other while I evaluate each. It seems like the current generation is pretty limited, with the FitBit just tracking motion, and the Basis tracking heartbeat poorly, especially when active, so I can see why people would be dissatisfied.
  • by thevirtualcat (1071504) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @10:04AM (#46638711)

    I avoided bluetooth for years becuase it was unreliable and awkward. The headsets were expensive and uncomfortable. Some didn't work in that they required pairing every time you turned it on. (Both the phone and the device completely forgot about each other.) Buying a corded headset was far cheaper, had far better quality, and was far more comfortable.

    But times change, as do needs. Most bluetooth devices now have just enough non-volatile memory to remember what they were last paired with and most bluetooth hosts will quite happily keep a list of every device it's ever pair with. Other than the initial setup (which can still be awkward and annoying) it's quite simple to use now. Hold the button for a few seconds until the light blinks and/or the sound chimes. Now I have a whole host of bluetooth devices. A headset, a car, a smart watch, a pair of headphones and a keyboard.

    Wearables are very much in that early adoption phase. Everyone who owns and actively uses one knows this, I should think.

    "Why would I want to read a text message from my watch? I've got a perfectly good phone in my pocket."
    "Why would I want to check my email from my phone? I've got a perfectly good laptop in my briefcase."
    "Why would I want a laptop? I've got a perfectly good computer back at the office/at home."

  • Well, yes. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Veranix (666820) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @10:12AM (#46638809)

    The trouble with devices that claim to track your steps is they're so easily hoaxed by waving your arms around.

    No kidding. My girlfriend is Italian. Every time she has a conversation, her FitBit records her running a marathon.

  • These gadgets seem to fall into two categories:

    1. A problem looking for a solution
    2. A solution looking for a problem

    One has a future and some value while the other does not.

    (This comment is best read in the voice of Agent Smith.)

  • There were a whole bunch of smartphones before the iPhone. Anyone remember them? I stumbled across my old Palm Centro the other day, which replaced a Treo 680. These devices were useful to some (I was one of them), but the cost/benefit calculation was finicky, and they didn't find widespread adoption.

    Pop consensus was that smartphones were a niche market. Then, someone got one right (iPhone) and the whole industry took off. These days, people don't even realize they're using a "smartphone" (I can remember t

  • Hopefully people will use them only when face-to-face isn't available.

    I Forgot My Phone
    http://youtu.be/OINa46HeWg8 [youtu.be]

  • Oh wait, I thought they said Sybian [sybian.com].
  • The trouble with devices that claim to track your steps is they're so easily hoaxed by waving your arms around.

    Several of my co-workers do the "fit bit" thing, and have a group. I've seen several of them attach the fitbit to a necklace and hang it from the rear view mirror in a car. They record lots of steps when you're driving around - especially when you've stopped at a red light and it's swinging like mad.

    • Damnit, I forgot the other point I was going to make.

      Useful new technology has to replace or simplify some function, ideally; otherwise it has the challenge of persuading us that we need this entirely new thing.

      These devices do replace older devices that do the exact same thing. Pedometers have been around for hundreds of years. What's new is that the things integrate with your cell phone and by extension the web. More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

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