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April 12th 2012 5:25 pm

Is it time to consider buying a smart watch?

The idea of a watch that can do more than just tell time is nothing new. Dick Tracy's fictional two-way radio watch dates back to the 1930s, wrist PDAs have been around for as long as there were people willing to wear them (I count myself among that style-challenged demographic), and until it was shut down in January, you could still receive data on SPOT watches via Microsoft's MSN Direct service.

The failure of SPOT (the watches were first introduced in 2004, and were discontinued four years later) hasn't stopped manufacturers from working on smart watches, and this week we saw two big developments in the field: Pebble, an e-paper, Bluetooth-connected smart watch that will work with iOS and Android devices, has received over $1 million in Kickstarter pledges. And Sony's $149 SmartWatch just hit the market. Like the Pebble, the Sony watch uses Bluetooth to communicate with your smartphone. However, the Sony watch is currently Android-only.

The new watches join the $199, Android-based WIMM One (which also includes WiFi), and the Blue Sky i'm Watch, which starts at $469. The competition from Sony, and the Kickstarter buzz over the Pebble, may help bring smart watches to the mainstream in a way SPOT never could. The fact that these watches are app-based, sync with smartphones, and don't require a subscription to a data service, could also help. Then again, it's entirely possible that today's smart watch customer is just yesterday's Casio Databank buyer with a slightly bigger budget to play with. Speaking of which, does anyone know how I can sync my Casio with my Zaurus?

What do you think?





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17 replies

A lot of these watches look incredibly bulky and tacky in comparison to a stylish metal or leather strapped watch. A lot of the features available on these are already available on your phone, so why have two devices for the same purpose?
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I'm somewhat amazed that I'm as intrigued by the Pebble as I am. Yes, it does look a bit bulky -- it certainly isn't sleek or simple like a good old-fashioned analog watch -- but that doesn't strike me as the point of the Pebble. Being tethered to smartphones, smartwatches seem geared to augment their functionality, not replace them. The first image that grabbed me about the Pebble was the bike ride calculator. Sure, your smartphone can do the same thing, but you probably wouldn't want your phone tacked to your handlebars somehow, if you want a heads-up display as you're pedaling along. Checking text messages and notifications with a covert turn of the wrist also sounds highly appealing, as does its near-infinitely customizable capability.

I've always been very attached to my traditional analog watches, but the Pebble's definitely got my attention (especially the white one).
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I've always worn some form of watch, and having it connected to my phone seems like the logical next step. I'll wait for reviews to surface for these first models, though. I don't want to drop $200 on a watch that turns out to be crap.
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The idea is nice in theory but I've become so accustomed to only carrying a cell phone that I'm not sure I could get used to wearing a watch again. But there is a geeky side of me that lights up at the idea of wearing a smart watch, Google glasses, and Bluetooth headphones all connected to my phone... but I think I could only get away with that on Halloween.
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Smart watches have always peaked my interest, but none of them really seemed to be designed great or very stylish. Although I will say that the Pebble looks very interesting, especially since I am a biker.
The fact that it has it's own SDK, looks beautiful, and it is reasonably priced really has me interested.
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I think the real possibility of these watches comes from what you can do with the data from a set of wearable sensors - in theory, there's no reason most of these watches (the ones that support apps) couldn't replicate the functionality of the Jawbone Up, or the NikeFuel, or the Fitbit.
Additionally, you could get it to do sleep-tracking stuff, like the Wakemate and Jawbone Up do.
Those features alone would make these watches competitive with these other devices - throw in the ability to tell the time and give you notifications from your phone, and they definitely seem like a better bet.
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Beautiful, want to have one! Would it play music?

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The Kickstarter project for the Pebble definitely has me intrigued to the idea of owning a smart watch for the first time since my MSN SmartDirect years ago. If I can justify the cost, I might end up backing it. I don't need the exercise functions so much as I want to see texts and calls without reaching in my pocket.
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This market is going to be like the smartphone market in 2006/2007. Lots of potential for consumers and companies. Will Apple improve on their iPod nano with bluetooth and exercise tracking ability built in?

I think a smart watch needs to be a combo of Sony smartwatch and Jawbone Up. Exercise tracking + wireless connectivity + some form of style. Jawbone and Sony are both great at designing beautiful devices. I love my bluetooth earpieces, but much of the market still loathes them. Battery life is always my biggest complaint.

The possibilities are endless with smartwatches. People already own multiple watches, wear them daily and many spend hundreds, even thousands on them. Price should not be an issue at launch for any of these. If you created a "perfect" smartwatch you could easily charge $1000 for it. I would pay it, too.

Think about it.
-Waterproof to 100M
-Bluetooth 4.0
-voice recorder
-music player
-fitness tracker
-sleep monitor
-alarm device (similar to fitness devices that wake you at the optimal point in your sleep)
-rugged (obviously)
-5 day battery - would be best to charge through a computer while your sitting
-text messaging ability
-movie player
-paypass/credit card ability
-GPS (limited, maybe just the ability to enter an address and see directions depending on how you look at the watch, anything would be an improvement over holding your phone out and blindly walking/driving instead of looking at the road)

It's the future and it will take a bit. Maybe another side question: Which will we have first, Google Glasses or popular, useful smartwatches like I describe?
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The Pebble is the first smart watch to intrigue me. I see a smart watch as a great way to screen messages, calls and emails. At a glance I hope to see if any of these necessitate taking my phone out of my pocket. I also like the control over the watch face. I've had a hard time finding really minimal watches that I like. My favorite watch face that I've found so far is the Nixon Newton: www.nixon.com­/mens­/watches­/the­-newton­-a116.html­?sk...
Unfortunately the build quality is very poor. Nixon has been great about honoring their warranty but after the second watch broke in the same place, it wasn't worth the time of sending it in.
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I have been interested in this concept since I got my first cellphone. I have been waiting for one to really deliver the goods, and the Pebble is the first that passes my test of the basics I need. I tried going watchless for over a year and finally tired of it. I have since been wearing a basic analog watch while waiting for the holy grail of watches to finally arrive. The e-ink face is the feature that finally makes this one the first one I will actually buy if it gets decent reviews after it hits stores.

On reflecting on this, however, I realize that I would actually prefer, rather than a slave to a smartphone, a watch that includes all my voice calling functions. I generally dislike voice calls, so if I could move that functionality to my wrist, it might make me hate it less. Then, the device I carry in my pocket could simply be a mini-tablet with a data plan to do everything else, while having the option to push contacts to the watch and trigger calls on the watch. Now that would be the holy grail.
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I will wait one more year.

With Smart Watch connecting to my Win8 Slate + bluetooth headset, I will be able to make and take calls without candy bar size phone.
I think we still need one more year, before smart wearable tech will take off. Just my 5 cents. Cheers.
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What's the point?
I mean my phone can do all these functions. What's the point in having loads of different gadgets doing the same thing? A watch is supposed to tell time, not read emails, play music ect.
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I'd definitely consider getting one, especially after seeing all the attention the Pebble is getting. It's too bad each of these devices needs an entirely different app market since there's no standard. But will most likely wait a couple generations once apps & hardware become more refined!
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As a matter of fact... we just covered these on our show!
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I'd say you're missing two great options: the MotoACTV and the iPod Nano with the Lunatik or TikTok or other enclosure/band.



Minus battery life I'd say the MotoACTV is the best so far-- very similar to the original Droid Eris in specs/power minus screen resolution when rooted.
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While I like the idea of integrating technology into a wristwatch, what holds me back is style. I have a firm belief that the only jewelry a man should wear is a wedding ring (if he's married) and a fine wristwatch. I'm just not ready to sacrifice the elegance of a nice wristwatch for tech functionality.
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