Smartwatches Must Overcome Their Name
There has been much news of smartwatches in the past couple days, mainly because Samsung announced their Galaxy Gear watch, pictured above.
I don’t know if I will buy a smartwatch in the next couple years or not. To date, I’ve been underwhelmed by the press materials and descriptions I’ve read.
The biggest issue facing the Gear (and other smartwatches) is the idea that this will be a “watch.” By using the word “watch” in the name for this new category of wrist-based wearable technology, it inherits all the legacy and expectations of watches. The primary legacy being that it should prioritize the output of the time.
I find it interesting that in all the press I’ve read about the Samsung Gear, none of the comparison slideshows have made mention of the Jawbone Up, Nike+ Fuelband, or any other wrist-worn computer that is not primarily a watch.
The “Smartwatch” name indicates a category of technology more specific than just a wrist-worn computer, and that is to the Gear’s (and the Toq and the Pebble…) detriment.
Wrist-worn computers are going to get interesting when they’re not just a smartphone proxy slapped into a wrist-based form factor. Instead, when wrist-based devices can do things like provide persistant, passive authentication or control a tank* with the flick of your hand, then things are going to get interesting.
The most important trend I’ve noticed around the Fuelband is that, despite the fact it can tell the time, most people who wear a Fuelband also wear a watch. That indicates to me that the Fuelband has found a wrist-native use case and has inherited none of the burden that comes with the word “watch.” Smartwatches have to make the same transition if they’re ever going to make a long-term, lasting impact in consumer technology.
* Disclosure: Spark is an investor in Thalmic Labs