Smartwatches. One of the hottest new product categories in tech.
Do you own one? Probably not.
Would you buy one? Well, the likes of every tech company from Apple to Huawei is hoping that your answer is yes.
When smartwtaches were first announced for mass-market consumption, they were hailed as revolutionary devices. Devices that would free us from our phones and provide us with easily accessible, less intrusive, more personalized communication.
So what happened to these revolutionary devices? Why isn’t everyone wearing one?
Well, there are a few things to look at.
Design, function and cost.
The first wave of smartwatches weren’t that attractive, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t ugly but if you want me to wear your tech, you’re going to have to set up your design game. They looked like someone had stuck a tile to a watchstrap and tied it around their wrist.
Traditional watches were things of beauty and stature just take a look at a Breitling or a Baume & Mercier watch.
Tech didn’t quite follow the same rule. When it came to technology, sometimes form was compromised in favour of function and that was ok because tech was not generally seen out of your home or office and your smartphone or tablet was usually in your pocket or bag.
Smartwatches are different. They’re meant to be a hybrid of the best of technology coming together with the portability and design aesthetic of a watch. Watches have also become status symbols and a form of self-expression and identity, much like what you wear.
The likes of LG and Motorola realized this and brought us watches that looked nothing like their predecessors, in fact, these new smartwatches looked a lot like…watches. This new breed of smartwatch was thoughtful and beautiful to look at.
Now that the design issue was finally being addressed, what about functionality?
With everyone from Pebble to Sony to Asus now producing beautiful looking smartwatches, surely people would start buying them right? Well, not so much.
Smartwatches looked better now but what could they do?
Once people had gotten past the “ooh look at the shiny new gadget” phase of owning a smartwatch, they realized that essentially what they had was ANOTHER screen that was constantly feeding you with information.
How many steps you took that day. What your heart rate was. Who’d just sent you an email or text or instant message. Was that Shaun that just liked my Facebook status?
A constant bombardment of distractions now conveniently on your wrist, just a glance away.
Most smartwatches also need to be tethered to your phone (the Apple Watch to an iPhone and Android Wear watches to an Android phone) in order to function and would need to be charged every 1 – 2 days.
So functionality was fairly limited (and yes, we do know that there are watches that allow you to make calls on the watch itself or to open garage doors, but who makes a phone call on a watch, especially in public. Is this the the beginning of the new glasshole?)
So how much is this improved design and somewhat limited functionality going to cost me?
Well, that’s the other problem.
Smartwatches are still a niche market and therefore they are not the most inexpensive devices (yes we’re looking at you gold Apple watch).
The average smart watch currently costs as much as a brand new mid-range smartphone.
So why do I NEED a smartwatch?
Well, to be honest, you don’t. Not yet at least.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good piece of wearable tech but I’m not the everyday consumer, I’m the tech geek.
Smartwatches are still in their infanthood. There are ideas and purposes behind wearables that need to be looked at again and resolved but I believe that it will happen. When the first iPhone was released, everyone wanted one, but if we look at it now, it was an overpriced, good-looking piece of not very functional tech, but it evolved. That’s what will happen with the smartwatch once the software starts improving. Better software leads to better functionality which leads to more people actually buying smartwatches which in turn leads to reduced prices because material is now cheaper and can be purchased in bigger bulk.
Should you decide to get a smartwatch now, take a few things into consideration first:
Will it be compatible with the operating system on my smartphone?
If it’s compatible with my OS, will it be compatible with my phone?
Which design aesthetic will continue to appeal to me for at least 1 year?
Do I really want to have access to this wealth of information on my wrist?
Smartwatches are definitely here to stay, so even if you decide against getting one now, you might as well prepare yourself for the eventuality of owning one.
Here are some of our favourite smart watches currently (or soon-to-be) available from some of the biggest names in tech :