Exactly what do we need a Smartwatch for?

There is a lot of buzz about the smartwatch. Just this month you may have read about the Sony Smartwatch 2, Casio’s 6900 series, the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Omate Truesmart.  What is not clear to me is exactly what we need the smartwatch for.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Smartphones are popular because they integrate existing technology into a nice and handy all in one package. The smarthphone replaces a lot of existing technology. The smartphone put the mobile phone, organizer, Walkman, handheld gaming console, camera, portable video player, and your personal computer all in a little rectangular pocket-sized bar. Yes, your smartphone is as powerful as a full-sized computer from just a few years ago. What keeps it from completely replacing your computer are the limits of what can be done on a small 4 or 5 inch display or software restrictions like what Apple does with iOS. Because of the limitations of what can be done comfortably on a small screen, we have seen the tablet and  the phablet, both of which are essentially larger smartphones.

Now someone got the idea that we would like micro versions of smartphones strapped to our wrists. But no one has been able to define exactly what existing technology we would like replaced by these smartwatches. Instead, the smartwatch has been envisioned to be an extension of the smartphone, so that you can look at the tiny one inch display on your wrist rather than pull out your smartphone from your pocket. Early smartwatches act as a notification tool which will alert you of phone calls, messages or email received by your smartphone. Granted this could be useful for those who carry their smartphone in a handbag when in noisy environments. But if that is all the smart watch is designed to do, a simple device which vibrates on any notification might be a more elegant way to go about it. This could be strapped discretely on a wrist, shoulder, ankle or thigh. I don’t see many people wanting to sport a smartwatch while in a tux or little black dress.

So, why the smart watch? Despite the convergence in technology, you have a fair number of gadget-crazy types who like to carry multiple smartphones plus a Kindle, iPod and and tablet all at the same time. The smartwatch is not about filling a need, but manufacturers are hoping to capitalize on our gadget-crazy nature to sell a few hundred million of these things. Tell me I am wrong, but exactly what clutter around your desk or in your travel bag will disappear when your shiny new smartwatch arrives?


3 Replies to “Exactly what do we need a Smartwatch for?”

  1. It’s as much a micro version of the smart phone as the tablet is a macro version. Remember the laughs the iPad got on it’s introduction and how so many people couldn’t see the applications? Same story here, but completely different!

    The number one benefit of a smart watch will be to push the integration of health and medical applications beyond what a device we carry in our pockets can do. Something in constant contact with our skin/body and exposed to the outside world ( rather than stuffed in a pocket/bag ) will be able to capture and analyse a whole new world of data that we can only begin to imagine and predict… Ok, that some of us can only begin to imagine ;P

    Don’t feel bad though, throughout human history people have missed the point or potential of new devices and applications. Even those in the know have only a slither of what awaits when they do release these new devices, simply because we humans don’t do very well thinking outside the box.

  2. I tend to be happy enough with a altimeter and compass (though the Compass is really something I hope I do not need to use). Since I climb established trails, I know where I am based on altitude over seal level. So I am pretty much happy with the Casio and Suunto offerings. If you need GPS, the Suunto Ambit 2 might be what you are looking for. It is not a good choice for longer (2-day) climbs or hikes. Depending on what mountain you climb, GPS may or may not be useful. Am from the tropics, where tree cover makes GPS rather spotty, so I study a topo map well and use altitude to determine progress.

    If the price goes as low as US$200, it a outdoor oriented iOS or Android smartwatch will give the current generation of smartwatches a run for their money.

  3. Like you, I am a mountain climber (very amateur). I want to track my climbs/hikes with my smartphone’s GPS and apps. Do I want to carry my smartphone in my pocket while climbing? No, it goes in my backpack. Do I want to pull it out every now and then? Not at all. Do I want to be able to see my distance, altitude, and maybe a tiny map at all times? Hell yes!

    …Same goes for runs. I will easily shell out $200+ for a smartwatch that fills these needs and doesn’t look fugly.

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