The Smartwatch: Is it a worthy companion or another gimmick bound to flop? (editorial)

The Smartwatch: Is it a worthy companion or another gimmick bound to flop?

2014 is well on its way to becoming a year remembered for the wearables it introduced, in the world of technology at least. Google is slowly making Glass more available in addition to introducing Android Wear, with a number of OEM’s building smartwatches based on the platform. Apple has been reportedly working on their iWatch for a while now, and Microsoft have presumably taken over smartwatch development since its acquisition of Nokia.

So why all the hype? What’s so great about wearable devices – particularly smartwatches – that’s got multinational companies scrambling to release one? From a business perspective, the reasons would be fear of being left behind in this ever-growing, ever-changing tech industry, missing out on potentially massive profit margins, and hopes of becoming a market leader in the category, among others.

“Wearables are the next big thing in tech” they would say. Alright, maybe so, but how do I, the customer, benefit from it all? What can smartwatches do for me that my smartphone can’t? In my opinion it all boils down to one thing; convenience. And maybe bragging rights, but let’s look over that for the sake of argument.

Convenience is the reason technology exists; phones to talk to people without them being there; autonomous robots to vacuum our homes without breaking a sweat; Surface’s to have a laptop and a tablet in the same package; you get my drift. Smartwatches also make certain tasks more convenient; you’ll have faster access to your notifications, easy control of your music playback, the ability to quickly search the internet via a digital personal assistant and more. All good, but it’s how much of an added convenience smartwatches really are, especially compared to the inconveniences they introduce that must also be taken into consideration.

The Smartwatch: Is it a worthy companion or another gimmick bound to flop?

(Image courtesy of Nadir Aslam)

A quick look at reviews of the recently released LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live tend to tell the same story; they’re too bulky compared to regular wristwatches due to all the extra components that makes a smartwatch a smartwatch, also partly due to requiring a larger battery to power it all. Speaking of which, they still suffer from weak battery life that requires regular charging, and in efforts to reduce battery consumption, the low-powered displays used on them have terrible outdoor visibility. Talk about deal-breakers.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think smartwatches – after the concept has matured over time – have the potential to become hugely convenient and useful pieces of technology. As the trend for larger smartphones continues to grow, smartwatches can become the perfect companion, giving people less of reason to pull their phablets out of their pockets. But for the vast majority of those that currently don’t have phablets, I still don’t see where smartwatches fit in, at least in their current form.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one question: Does the $199-299 price of a smartwatch justify the minor added convenience of not having to pull a smartphone out of your pocket? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below or in our Open Forum.

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