By Ryan Kamauff
Smartwatches are nothing new. The true nerds remember the calculator watches of the 80s and 90s, and their place in nerd culture. As we have miniaturized computing, we are moving more and more computing to our bodies (smartphones, Google Glass, and yes, smartwatches). As an avid user of the Motorola MOTOACTV, I’ve been using a smartwatch for almost a year now. I like to use my smartwatch to do a variety of functions, check time, track my exercise, occasionally listen to music and even sometimes for notifications.
And I’m not alone. While I get a ton of flak for my “wrist computer,” (as some like to call it) many people are interested, and want a similar device. While Garmin has had GPS watches available for years, they have not sold past the hardcore runners. Devices such as the Nike FuelBand and the Jawbone UP provide some of the capabilities desired in a smartwatch, but neither device has it down yet. Sony, Motorola and Pebble have all already released smartwatches, each with a (or many) fatal flaws. Apple, Google and Samsung have all stated intentions to produce their own as well (this does not include Apple’s use of the iPod Nano as a watch). We can hope that they learn from some of the mistakes of the first generation of these devices.
Corporations are making smartwatches for one reason: people want them. Pebble launched via Kickstarter and was so popular they ran into issues merely meeting the demand. Apple knows that only Apple can make a good smartwatch for iOS, because of the closed ecosystem. Google probably believes that they have the best chance at making a good and open smartwatch for the Android platform (as their Nexus devices were/are the standard bearer’s for Android tablets/smartphones). Samsung believes that they can make a quality Android device, because they are just about the only Android OEM that matters anymore.
Consumers want wearable computing, just look at the buzz around Google Glass. When it was rumored that Apple was creating a Google Glass competitor, it light up the search engines. While I believe augmented reality (AR) via smartphone less than ideal, with Google Glass it will be far better. Smartwatches offer a variety of AR capabilities as well; it can tell you where you are, offer enhanced sensors, and give you a more in-depth idea of your activities.
Whether it is a Pebble, a MOTOACTV, the iWatch or a Nexus Watch, users hunger for smartwatches. Samsung will undoubtedly merge their offering with their Galaxy S4 line (perhaps the Galaxy S Watch?), which might limit its functionality with non Galaxy devices (they did this with their Muse music player). These devices will probably all contain some interior storage, a GPS capability, an actiometer (or multi-axis gyroscope) and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Smartwatches are coming, and we might even see the high dollar fashionistas get into the game (a Gucci smartwatch? A true Omega James Bond smartwatch?). You’ll see more screens on wrists, and people checking them instead of the “phone check.” Delivering notifications to the wrist is just a further step into integrating computing capabilities on our bodies.
I can’t wait to see the next generation of smartwatches, who else will be a buyer?