I have been pretty vocal about the new smartwatches, including Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch. In a conversation with Emily Chang on Bloomberg TV, I said that while Samsung has to be commended for taking a step forward, I am not going to be wearing one of the new watches, unless as an experiment for a limited period of time. I don’t really have a quibble with the watch concept, it’s just that I don’t think the devices that are available today are worth my time (no pun intended) or the money.
Smartwatches indeed have a role to play in the future. They are key component of our notification-driven personal computing fabric — one that will use the phone as the hub for all sorts of highly personal devices (also called wearables), as I explained in a conversation with NPR MarketPlace. However, in a conversation with ABlogToWatch, a wonderful watch blog published by Ariel Adams and friends, I elaborated some of my issues and challenges with the smartphones. Here are some of the key points around the smart watches.
- None of the companies have come up with a killer mass market product.
- Watches come with certain expectations and if something doesn’t match those expectations, we tend to feel a little let down. From that perspective, whatever we have seen hasn’t taken the history of watchmaking into account.
- Watches are extremely difficult to design because they have to withstand the rigors of daily life, something designer Yves Behar pointed out during a conversation a couple of years ago. None of the devices released look and feel strong enough to withstand those rigors.
- Watches have to look attractive and feel awesome on the wrist. The devices we have seen are more focused on software and internals and less on the aesthetics of a watch. You can’t underscore the emotional satisfaction of seeing a watch on your wrist, checking the time and feeling a little something — it is something that is simply hard to describe. The watch and its face have to be reassuring. I don’t see that in smart watches — just yet.
- Smart watches haven’t done enough to replace the analog beauty on my wrist. You cannot forget that wrist-space is at a super premium.
There are other challenges — compatibility, battery power and an over-reliance on phones for basic functionality, but those are mere issues of features and again, I do think Samsung has done a good job. Samsung has and it will continue to create buzz around the category. That said, it will be a while before this market becomes a real mass market.