Monday, September 29, 2014

State of the Smartwatch: Moving to independence may not be all that good

The smartwatch landscape is changing, ever so quickly. We started with square designs, and now manufacturers are making traditionally round-faced devices to behold (or, maybe, be-wrist?).

Yet, while this aesthetic movement is certainly a welcome one, there's one movement in smartwatch design, namely the internal one, that I wholeheartedly do not welcome: the independent smartwatch movement.

Back when my Neo was also a Pip-Boy.

No, I'm not against lesser-known manufacturers and indie projects. That's not what I mean. I'm talking about how the Samsung Gear S and now the LG G Watch R will be smartwatches that will use a 3G signal to be able to connect to a carrier network without tethering to a device.

Wait, back up. Why am I against this?? I'm a huge nerd! I should be DANCING about this!

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The way that I see it, this could hurt phone manufacturers financially in many ways. Production costs are certainly one factor, but if the independent smartwatch takes flight, then what happens to mobile phones? Will the manufacturers soon stop producing smartphones or at least making top-notch phones because of this craze?

Maybe those questions seem a little severe to you. Too "out there" to be asked. Yet, I beg to ask them.

I honestly don't see the independent smartwatch taking major flight except in certain markets and with certain audiences. But at the same time, I must ponder the aforementioned possibilities.

Here's two lists for you to gander at, just because everyone likes lists:

Why the independent smartwatch will never take flight

1. We love full apps  and we can't let them go
I don't think grandma is giving up Candy Crush anytime soon, and I'm sure that the casual mobile gamer won't want to give up Angry Birds or any other staples in mobile gaming anytime soon. The app markets are a major part of smartphone ownership and economy, and to start uprooting that industry or trying to alter it too much will not rest easy with many mobile companies.

2. We love texting
Simple enough, most smartwatches cannot offer a full keyboard for text messaging. Unless you get something like the Neptune Pine or the Rufus Cuff or the currently crowdfunded bendable smartwatch, you won't be saying LOL to your BFF.

3. We need to have convenient cameras
The whole point of having at least an 8 megapixel or above camera on a smartphone is to have a quick and easy-to-use camera so you didn't have to carry around another device. Most smartwatches don't have better than 5 megapixels, and many don't have the ever-coveted selfie camera. While the Arrow smartwatch will seek to remedy that and focus on its proposed 8 megapixel camera that rotates around the watch face, whether this will be good is yet to be seen.

4. We need private conversations
Unless smartwatches start offering headphone jacks to work with an earphone-and-mic combo, all calls made on a smartwatch will be public to anyone nearby when you use the included speakerphone. Aside from the poor quality of some of these speakers, I'm sure you don't want your lover saying something risqué for the random grandma next to you to hear or for your angry boss to swear vehemently where a busload of children can start crying from his foul language.

That being said, if none of the following applies to you, or if you want to dive into this devilish subcategory, then you'll need to

1. Kiss full-fledged apps goodbye (unless you aren't attached to any)

2. Want to use voice texting or send audio recordings, unless you can type on a super small screen

3. Will carry an extra camera around or will use a lower-quality camera for sharing with friends on social media

4. Don't have any risk with your private phone calls

5. Just want to be like Dick Tracy

Caveat emptor, my friends. Make your choices wisely with this still-fresh subcategory of smartwatches.

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