The state of a smartwatch is like a luxury car. You own one, only if you could afford it and you need to make a status statement. I have been playing around with a loaned for review, unit of, Samsung Gear 2 for the last couple of days and as much as I have tried to integrate it into my daily life, I have struggled to find space.
Sure, if you want a smartwatch to just say that you have a computer peripheral on your wrist, there are some decent options out there including Pebble Steel, Gear 2, Sony’s Smartwatch etc. But they are no more than very expensive objects to make a style statement that honestly would not even turn that many heads.
So why is it that I would rather let the money sit peacefully in my bank account than go out and splash it on a smartwatch? Here are my reasons:
None of the Smartwatches appeal to me as a ‘Watch’
End of the day, you are wearing a watch! Yes, smartwatch or not all that smart, it is pretty much a useless accessory if it does not appeal to you from the design standpoint of a watch. Strip out all the smartness and would I pick the Gear or Gear 2 or even Sony’s product as a plain watch? Maybe the Pebble steel, but for the rest the answer is a staunch no. I am extremely excited about the smartwatch from Motorola as it perhaps is the first smartwatch that actually looks like a watch. As things stand, buying a smartwatch is like buying an aircraft which does not have a proper landing gear, you can fly all you want, but ultimately you have to land which this does not.
The current smartwatches are big bricks of metal strapped on to your wrist which you will grow tired of eventually, especially if you spend about ten hours sitting and typing where your wrist is kind of hanging midway in the air as you blast your keyboard away. Coming from somebody who has always used Swatch’s analogue watches which are so lightweight that you tend to forget it is resting on your wrist, the extra bit of heft is something I am not a fan of. The lack of personalization is appalling at the stage and apart from few accent colors, you cannot pick things based on your personal taste. Imagine, if somebody could do a Moto Maker sort of thing for smartwatch, now that is what would be droolworthy!
The OS is just plain too complicated
So far, Android Wear excluded since they are not in the market, every smartwatch out there is just a complicated combination of button clicks. I do not want my watch to be like a stuff from Star Wars world where I am constantly tapping or moving things around. The problem has been too many manufacturers have tried to bring too many features from the smartphone to the smartwatch. For example, why would I want to read an E-Mail, even the subject of an E-Mail on my smartwatch, just an alert with who the mail is from would suffice. Similarly, why would I want to check into a location with my watch, I can always pull my phone out for that, yes I would like to know if any of my friends are around in the location from my smartwatch.
Sometimes trying to do too much can be a big problem. A smartwatch needs to establish an identity and have an OS that is tailor made to work on a smaller display intuitively. I do not want to be clicking on a 10×10 checkbox on my watch for sure. Big, simple and clean is the way to go, and for now, none of the watches do this. But of what we have seen of Android Wear this problem could well be on its way to being solved.
The Battery needs to last
The colored AMOLED display on most of the smartwatches today eat up way too much battery meaning you are looking for a charging point every couple of days. A Pebble uses E-Ink display which does last about a week or so, but come on that surely is not enough. Imagine, you are off to a trip to the wild for 10 days, and your watch gives up half way through.
Given the small size of the body, it is understandable that you cannot fit in a large capacity battery, but how about adding in a power saver like mode to these watches. Samsung has done it with the S5 where your phone turns into a feature phone, so that begs a question, why was something similar not bought to say a Gear 2. Say, the battery falls to below 20%, the watch should automatically turn all the connections off and just tell me the time on a Black and White display till I get to the charging point. Another solution could be using solar charging. If somehow we could add in solar cells maybe around the bezels of the watch or within the display, the watch would automatically be charged during the day time, giving us a bigger backup than what we are experiencing.
A Smartwatch should be compatible with all devices
Hypothetically, I like the design of a Samsung Gear 2 or Gear Fit, but the device is rendered useless unless I own one of the Samsung compatible smartphones. In a way, unless you are already in the Samsung ecosystem you are not really welcome to the wearable peripherals. Smartwatches should be treated as standalone products and be a unique entry point to the ecosystem independent of what device the customer is currently using.
You want a Sony smartwatch to work with any Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry or iOS device irrespective of how old it is. This is a major grievance and we understand compatibility is an issue thanks to the different protocols of platforms. And it looks like this problem is not going away anytime soon, given the Android Wear will heavily be dependent on Google Now integration which is non existent on a Windows Phone device or older Android phones.
As a Society we need to accept Smartwatches
I was out for a meeting the other day and over dinner I received a couple of notifications from twitter on my watch. Since the vibration was un-ignorable, I glanced over to my watch twice in quick succession. The person on the other side of the table got pretty uncomfortable and asked me fairly apologetically if I needed to be elsewhere and was just waiting for her to call it a day.
The devices are still in a phase of adaptation and the society needs to come on terms that there is another place for us to receive our notifications. Till the level of acceptance comes in, it would be just plain weird and embarrassing to wear the smartwatch in public and continue to look at them without being unintentionally rude to the person in your company.
So, until most, if not all, of these issues are not ironed out, I am not prepared to pick a smartwatch just yet. However, the smartwatch ship is lowered in water and make no mistakes, is all set to sail. It would be a spectacle and a ship we all will eventually get on to. How soon or how late, is what needs to be found out!