By Erick A. Fabian
Average tech consumers should know this about smartwatches: they are not stand-alone devices. They are accessories that will only work when linked to a smartphone, if you own one.
Smartwatches, as they are now, only show notifications, e-mails, messages and other basic details while worn on the wrist. The idea is that you don’t have to waste time or pause to pull your smartphone out from your bag or pocket.
It can also provide a way for the user to check emails and social media messages by glancing on a watch during a meeting, because glancing at a smartphone in the middle of a conversation can be considered discourteous.
One important question that tech critics keep asking is whether smartwatches are only meant to augment the smartphone, or whether it will replace the smartphone.
Manufacturers are still in the process of figuring out what exactly these devices can be useful for. What can smartwatches offer the tech consumer that isn’t being provided by smartphones and tablets already?
According to Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at the Yankee Group, “The fact of the matter so far is that consumers don’t want smartwatches as they are currently designed. That’s why they don’t sell. That suggests that today’s products are largely technology solutions for problems that don’t strike most consumers as true needs; they simply are gadgets.”
The watch as a piece of technology is a long-time classic because it has served a basic purpose for generations: to measure time. Whether it was the pocket watch in the late 1400s, the wristwatch of the 1900s, or the digital wristwatch of the 1970s up to present, it rarely deviated from its original function, except for a few additional features such as a built-in thermometer, radio, and calculator.
Futurists and tech theorists have foreseen the eventual computerization of the tried-and-tested wristwatch. The diminishing size of microchips, pixels, and batteries is going to make it all come true.
That the watch will eventually become an all-around device is beside the point. The question is whether the smartwatch is a practical tool for the jet-setting generation, and whether it is a solution to people’s needs.
The smartphone is fast becoming a technological mainstay because it answers the need for portable devices that can do the work of personal assistants.
There is talk in the tech industry about Apple, the maker of the iPad and Mac computers, getting into the smartwatch race. Samsung and other manufacturers are releasing model after model of smartwatches, and consumers are considering giving them as gifts for birthdays and holidays.
The idea is to make the watch come back as the leading portable device for personal use. Many tech critics are not yet convinced of its long-term functionality.
As of this moment, smartwatches are still considered a fashionable consumer-tech trend, affordable by people with extra money to burn but not a practical device for work or business purposes.