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What's the deal with smartwatches?

There was no shortage of smartwatch announcements today, with Google announcing Android Wear [1], featuring partnerships [2] with HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola [3] and LG [4]; the latter two showing off their first smartwatches under that partnership.

Even after watching Google's concept videos for Android Wear I am still having a hard time understanding what benefit smartwatches bring to the consumer. I understand that they're giving you glanceable information via your smartphone, and this has some value, but I feel they're not really solving any real world issues. We already carry around small computers in our pocket that give us endless amount of information, yet there seems to be this thinking that the issue with them is taking them out of your pocket. And again, I get that when you're walking around in a large city staring at your phone is going to lead to you possibly getting hurt by walking into a street pole or, even worse, out into oncoming traffic. At the same time though there isn't a huge need to be staring at your phone -- you can look to make sure you're heading in the right direction and put it away.

This isn't just with Google, but just the concept of smartwatches in general. I think there is a lot of ripe potential in these devices to deliver useful and meaningful information to consumers. However every video I've ever seen focuses entirely on delivering notifications to you, or giving you directions, or meeting reminders. At the most when it comes to health possibilities it's just fundamental stuff any pedometer can do; not to mention phones are beginning to do. Why don't we see anything related to health concerns for people with diabetes or high blood pressure?

I recognize baby steps are needed, but I would be a lot more excited about these devices if I saw more long term value out of them. Simply delivering notifications and directions to my wrist doesn't offer enough for me. All I'm seeing these devices do right now is continue to provide more avenues to be constantly distracted by our phones.

[1] www.engadget.com­/2014­/03­/18­/google­-android­-wear/
[2] www.engadget.com­/2014­/03­/18­/google­-new­-android­-wea...
[3] www.engadget.com­/2014­/03­/18­/this­-is­-motorolas­-new­-...
[4] www.engadget.com­/2014­/03­/18­/lg­-g­-watch­-android­-wea...

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14 replies

Personally, as I carry my phone not in my pocket but in my messenger bag or similar, this devices are pretty useful. I can receive notifications and reply to those events without rummagging in my bag and losing time in replying to some important message or notification I’ve received.

IMHO, Motorola is the one that has successfully created a watch I would wear, a smart-watch that looks like a watch, but does many more things than a regular one. I think that is the perfect form factor for a wrist device, opposed to the square form factor that I personally don’t dig too much.

On the other hand I agree with the theme here that the watch shouldn’t only be used to display notifications, it should be used for many other things. It can be used for medical or fitness uses, or even for other uses we cannot begin to imagine now but in years to come it will be as natural as using Google Hangouts or texting with Whatsapp. That in fact is one of my dreams; for the wearable technology to be as common as smartphones are now.

I am pretty excited about the future of wearable computers and related technology, like these smart-watches and the Glass project from Google for naming only two examples. I think these projects will mark the future of the mobile computing and the phone industry and I can’t wait to see what things the future will bring.
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"Simply delivering notifications and directions to my wrist doesn't offer enough for me"

I agree, although my experience is only with the pebble I had bought and then returned. I couldn't justify using something that moved notifications less than 6 inches from my phone in my front pocket to my wrist right beside that front pocket.

Seeing the Google announcement today doesn't warm me up to the idea anymore. In fact, the whole UI screamed 'Google Now'

I barely use Google Now as it is on my phone. It loves to pop up random articles based on one search I did a while back. I don't think it is terribly helpful at this point.
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I just don't have enough high importance things going to feel like I need to be watching my phone 24x7; even if I did I don't know if I would want this because I could never feel like I can escape.
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That's how BlackBerry (as a company) got you :P

They give you a corporate phone, and then know you get the message reliably XD
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I totally agree with you. I mean what's the point if your phone is always that close to you. If you get the notifications on your watch then what? You pick up your phone and treat the notifications? It's like doing a double job.
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I'm skeptical about smartwatches as well, but I do think Android Wear is a step in the right direction. Having a single operating system with a UI built from the ground up with smartwatches in mind, (instead of just being tacked on by some random hardware manufacturer,) is a good thing and having it run a full version of Android by itself instead of relying on something else that runs Android is a thing I would feel more comfortable with. Still, though, I find it hilarious the only reason they started becoming somewhat relevant in the first place is because Apple was rumored to make one, (which I never really thought they were gonna actually do,) &, who knows? Maybe it's Google that will make it something to be taken seriously instead of Apple. Google's the kinda company that could pull something like that off, IMO. Of course, they could very well fail. (Remember Google TV? That was Android.) But, whatever.
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The Moto 360 is the first smartwatch that doesn't look ridiculous. It looks like something I could actually wear.

If others follow this idea, and have useful functions on the watch, then then I could see my next watch being a smartwatch.

In time Tourneau, Longines, Breitling and Rolex will be making smartwatches and there will be something for everyone.......even wealthy narcissists.

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That is the road I want to see the manufacturers following with time. Discard the classic watch and embrace the smart-watch concept :)
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I really like my Pebble. It's really no larger than a regular watch, but infinitely more useful. I don't rely on my phone to stay alive, but it's nice to get summaries of my emails and texts so I know there is anything important I need to take care of. Also knowing who is calling by glancing at my watch rather than have to find and dig out my phone is great.
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My quibble is really an aesthetic one. Watches, for men in particular, are one of the few ways that men can express their taste and status. People buy Tourneau, Longines, Rolex because they want to signal something to other people about themselves. As such, I see the tradeoff between a silly piece of sparkly technology and a nice watch a no brainer: keep the watch; keep the tech on the phone.

Plus I don't like keeping my arm in that uncomfortable twisted position when looking at my watch face. Sure I can flip it and place the face on the underside of my wrist, but then I'll scuff up the face.

If there's any tech I would be willing to wear on my wrist, it'd be a loose bracelet sort of contraption, something that's not trying to replace a watch but is a device all to itself. I'm sufficiently metro where that'd be ok.
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You have said it all. I mean I'd rather buy a $300 rolex than buy a smart watch
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Smart watches are good innovation although most of them lack key features to overtake the regular wrist watch market. I am talking about features such as being water resistant and dust proof. You see if you are to spend more than $100 on a watch the least feature You Should expect is that it is water resistant. If you own a smart watch, the day you get over excited and jump into a pool would mean "sayonara" to your watch.
Smart watches aren't a bad idea at all for example the newly introduced galaxy fit which is just brilliant as it monitors your heart rate although don't you wanna check your heartrate while in the pool? Am not restricting what am saying to just a pool what about if it starts to rain? Why is it called a watch if you are gonna have to remove it from your wrist to prevent rain from touching it?
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You are completely right. As long as they only work with a phone they are useless gimmicks. watch phones are popping up . They tend to be a bit clunky though, My suggestion would be to drop voice ( nobody really makes phone calls) and make a kind of tiny tablet watch with 3G and wifi
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Cha from Kreyos here.
this is a great piece in term of looking long-term vision for the smartwatch industry.
we're just at the tip of the ice berg in terms of the wearable tech and we're excited with the possibilities.
having notifications on your wrist while in meetings or dates and you stay updated without being rude as you have to keep checking your phone.

the Meteor is voice and gestured controlled smartwatch that keeps you connected and motivates you to stay active. perhaps in the near future, it will measure/record vital stats, blood pressure, blood sugar and can tell whether you're at risk for diseases.

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