Sunday, June 15, 2014

Smartwatches: An Opinion on Function

If I could write a blog post as short as possible on smartwatches, I would say this: smartwatches are an awesome, useful, and exciting category of consumer tech that is still developing and growing. However, I don't really go for short blog posts unless I'm just absolutely tired or overworked (see: my post on blankets).

I've been pondering on this tech category for quite some time. I'm still split on whether I'll get the Gear 2 Neo (maybe, waiting on the G Watch) or hold out for the Kreyos Meteor (unlikely) or the LG G Watch (maybe, depends on functions). But my pondering isn't limited to what I want to buy. I'm also wondering about what smartwatches should and shouldn't  be able to do. Even still, wouldn't that limit what a smartwatch could do?

Alright, alright, I'll cut the semi-intriguing philosophical question and give my blunt statement: smartwatches need to be tiered and sold according to their capabilities, with some features being unavailable on lower-end models, yet the smartwatch must not be a jack-of-all-trades. Samsung's Gear family has done a pretty good job at this, with the Gear Fit not having call or text capabilities compared to the Gear 2 Neo and Gear 2, and the Gear 2 Neo not having a camera with the Gear 2 having one (although I still think the pricing scheme is dang ridiculous). However, many would say that a "true" smartwatch does functions X, Y, and Z while also cooking a full breakfast. Scratch the full breakfast. You get the idea with their argument. The minimalist argument, however, says that a smartwatch doesn't need as many features as possible and must only perform a few basic tasks.

My counter to both goes like this:

1. The smartwatch must be sold to fit general consumer needs. Save specialty functions to specialty tech.
  To me, if I want to use a smartwatch, I want it to be able to make and take calls and texts by acting as an extension of my phone, show notifications for apps that I want to see, tell the time (shocker), and maybe a basic pedometer or app display for fitness. What I do not need are a flashlight, standalone phone capabilities, camera, standalone music player, fingerprint scanner...I don't need all of the bells whistles and gadgets and gizmos aplenty, nor whozits and whatsits galore (shameless The Little Mermaid plug). I just need what I know will fit into my life.

2. Unless the consumer doesn't need a full phone display or features of a smartphone, the smartwatch should not act as a standalone device with full phone capabilities.
  I'm partially inspired by the Neptune Pine smartwatch. To me, I don't think that the smartwatch should be an entirely standalone device unless the user has basic needs. For example, if the user doesn't need to take pictures or send lots of texts, then a standalone smartwatch is handy. However, the business user, the soccer mom, and the fraternity/sorority member all need those functions and more. A small screen (unless we look into the Rufus Cuff) won't do for the common user (even then, the Cuff isn't for the common user).

3. If you want a smartwatch to have every bell and whistle, offer one that doesn't do everything.
  It's cool if you have some hidden blades a la Assassin's Creed in your smartwatch. Congratulations. Not everyone wants to be Ezio, Connor, Edward, Altaïr, Adéwale, Aveline, or Desmond. Offer the rest of the general populace something not as deadly.

I sincerely hope every smartwatch manufacturer is reading this. I do love the category, but some of you are getting ridiculous.


Photo credit: LG

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