The technically astute people at PC Advisor recently published an article titled 15 best smartwatches 2015 UK: The best wearable tech you can buy right now. They are certainly to be commended, not only for their commitment to providing useful, objective technical information and analyses, but also for their subtlety in acknowledging that the product type is in its infancy, and offers more in the way of future promise than present utility.
Particularly amusing is their comparison of the smart watch of today to the wristwatch of the late 1800s. When wristwatches were first invented, they saved gentlemen from having to dig into their pockets to determine what time it was. Similarly, the smart watch shows the time, but also saves the modern gentleman or lady from the inconvenience of having to rummage around in pocket, purse, or satchel and hoist a quarter-pound slab up to within their field of vision to see who is calling or texting, or what they had wanted to remind themselves about. Of course, if the watch is telling you that you have an incoming call, you will then need to rummage around in pocket, purse, or satchel and hoist a quarter-pound slab up to answer the call, hopefully before the calling party hangs up or their call goes to voicemail.
Since websites such as PC Advisor have done such a fine job of reviewing the smartwatches available to them, to the notable exception of the Apple Watch, which was released after the review was published (but is reviewed elsewhere), we won’t be going into the dazzle, functionality, or features currently available. Instead, let’s have a look at the things that are absent from today’s smart watches, but that many potential buyers would love to see.
Make input more useful, and the display more readable – The keyboard on even the largest of new smartphones is still better suited to individuals with fingers the size of chopsticks than those with which the rest of the human race is equipped. And unless you are a twenty-something with better than perfect vision, reading the text on a smart watch is, at best, a challenge. To make matters worse, the display is more character-limited than a tweet, so…
There have been a few different approaches to solving both these problems, such as that seen on the Cicret wristband, a bracelet that uses your wrist as a larger (but rather crude) display and an equally crude keyboard. The result is that you wear an accessory to your smart phone that attempts (poorly) to compensate for the shortcomings in your smart watch, which is also an accessory to your smartphone. Some might call this progress…
I want my smart watch to be more than a smartphone accessory – For all their wondrous capabilities, smart watches of today are really little more than external displays and rather cumbersome input devices for smartphones. Forget to bring your smartphone along, and your smart watch becomes significantly less smart. Perhaps smart watches might one day be fully-functional standalone devices, capable of making calls, scheduling reminders, and exchanging text and graphical information with others, all without the inconvenience of reaching into that pocket, purse, or satchel. Imagine being able to walk down the street or sit at your table at dinner, and be able to check the Tokyo Exchange and text with your workmates. How much more convenient it would be to be able to ignore your dinner date without having to drag that smartphone out and leave it on the table, a veritable invitation to theft.
Of course, a lot of people are more than willing to brush aside the limitations of the smart watches that are currently available. They are greatly appreciative of the innovation that allows them to see cute little cartoons on their otherwise uninteresting wrists, and relish the ability to wave their arm at their barrista to pay for their latte, rather than having to dig out that four-ounce smartphone, or even more quaint, their wallet. For these enlightened and adventurous souls, the smart watch more than answers the question of its own usefulness. It marks the wearer as a technological pioneer and a way-shower, stylish beyond the dreams of us ordinary folk.