Smart watches are at an odd point right now. Everyone thinks they're cool, but nobody knows what to do with them. Are they smartphone companions? fitness trackers? music players? stand-alone devices? Well, they can be any of those, but not in a single device - or at least in a way that makes sense. And that is why I can't buy a smart watch yet.
The beauty of a smartphone is that it has truly become an all in one device. No longer do you have to make compromises for different features. In fact, the difference between smartphones features is perhaps less than it ever has been. You can pretty much walk in the store, choose any random device and know that it will suit your needs. It will make calls, it will text, it will tell you where you are at and where you want to go, it will browse the web, it will play music, and whatever else you can possibly imagine with a bazillian apps. And, usually it will have enough juice to do this all day long.
Smart watches are a different story. Want long battery life? Well hope you don't want more features than counting steps. Want a high res screen with apps? Hope you bring a charger around with you! Oh, forgot your phone? Guess that smart watch won't be very useful. The story of the smart watch right now is compromise. You have to know exactly what you want from it, and can't expect anything beyond that feature. It's the exact opposite of a smartphone offers. A single purpose watch is not a smartwatch - its a useless device.
At one end of the spectrum we have fitness tracker type devices and "light" smartwatches that both offer more of a traditioan watch design with long battery life, but offer limited features. I'm looking at you pebble.
Here is what a smart watch needs to offer before I would consider buying one:
- Normal: I wear an old school watch constantly, and when I'm not looking at the time, I don't know its there. That's how a smart watch should feel. It shouldn't be larger or heavier than a typical watch, it should be comfortable and look unassuming until it's used. Nobody wants to be the weirdo with a computer on his wrist
- Fully Independant: My smartwatch needs to be fully independant from my phone. In some ways its odd that smart watches were ever designed to be limited by the phone. If I have my phone, why do I need a smart watch? Oh, so I don't have to take it out of my pants? Is that really the extent of our thinking? Laziness? Smart watches are clearly the future, but I see it as a future fully replacing watches. I don't mind them sharing information - actually that's expected, but can we please stop pretending watches are only useful as extensions of phones?
- 4G: This one is partially what causes the previous issue. Watches are dependant on phone because they do not have their own cell radios. Right now, it seems the power requirements of 4g are not friendly to small devices like watches, but this is surely a huge roadblock to smart watches becoming serious devices.
- GPS: Yep
- Music: Easy
- All day battery life: None of the features mentioned above are difficult. But together they suck a lot of power - power that isn't available in battery packs that can fit in a small package on your wrist
I know, I'm a hard one to please. These are not easy tasks, and I suspect it will be 4 or 5 years before we get there. But I can wait patiently until the techonology catches up with my ambitions. Until then, I will be enojoying my versatile smart phone that has no problem accomplishing any task I throw at it, with plenty of juice at the end of each day.