Categories: Smartwatches
December 22, 2016
| ~ 2 years ago

Are tech journalists and analysts trying to kill smart watches?

By Duncan Jaffrey

It seems every few days another tech publication or an analyst is trying to scare monger about the future of smartwatches. Now, I’m not suggesting that the category is flying along at a great pace, nor can we avoid the apparent lack of current devices, however, there is a very real phenomenon in culture where if you say something enough people will start to believe it, especially when those doing the talking are influential.

Ausdroid is Advertising Supported

I have to admit, I love my smartwatch, I have always worn a watch and carrying a smartphone didn’t change that. When Android Wear became a thing I immediately imported a Moto 360 from the USA and I’ve never looked back. Yes, I am a massive nerd, but I find that the Smartwatch is a fantastic ACCESSORY for my phone and greatly enhances the overall control and interaction with my digital life.

Unlike the smartphone that moved into the market and filled a complete void, the smartwatch is emerging into a space where their existence is supplemental, not central. Perhaps this is the issue, are those espousing the failure, and even those creating the devices, looking to create something as big and successful as the smartphone? Because if they are then yes, it has failed to achieve that, and likely always will.

It’s undeniable that smartwatches are not as successful as many people, myself included, may have been hoping for but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a valid category that deserves development. I think many companies would give their CEO’s right leg to have a business as profitable as just the Apple Watch business would be within Apple, now Apple has a special kind of groupie and as a fashion/ status brand their performance is more emotional than a sign of ultimate success, but still that business would bring in a tidy profit.

What does Android Wear need to survive?

I think that answer is simple. Android Wear needs Google, specifically Google’s hardware division led by Rick Osterloh. Google needs to commit to the hardware platform, not just the software. They need to say upfront we will be releasing Android Wear devices for 3 ? 4? 5? years. They need to show other OEMs, developers, and consumers that they are committed to both the hardware and software platform for the mid-term and that it’s safe to invest in the category.

The Smartwatch category is in a difficult space, in a world where we are already buying new phones every year or two not many people are going to want to add a new watch to their expenses. Hopefully, the technology platform can become stable enough that users can get more than a year or two use out of a smartwatch? Could modularity become the successful model? Keep the case and swap out the innards?

Whatever the future holds I wish people would stop trying to kill the smartwatch with headlines and snark. Yes, the smartwatch category, like all things, needs to be critically evaluated but when you’re in an industry like tech with such a vast range of measures for success perhaps it is the measure and not the performance that are failing? Smartwatches were never going to be the next smartphone, and wanting them to be is just plain stupid.

Where do you stand on Smartwatches? Are you a fan wanting them to succeed or a skeptic waiting to be shown why you “need one”. Let us know below.

Last modified on 23 December 2016 6:41 am

Duncan Jaffrey

Duncan has been interested in technology since coding "Mary had a little Lamb" in Basic on his ZX Spectrum. A fan of all things Android, most days you'll find Duncan trawling the web for Android news or quietly editing away on Map Maker.

Tags: Android WearFeaturedSmartwatch

View Comments

  • Don't have a smart watch and feel no great need to get one. I find the functionality of a smart phone more than enough to navigate digital life, that I simply don't need to be as permanently online as a smart watch would allow, and in any case am very much attached to a couple of old analogue watches I own.

    Quality analogue watches are the original desirable gadgets, and are things of beauty in their own right - technically and aesthetically.

    Just wanting to provide a counter point to what I suspect will be a chorus of fanboy comments. Should probably note that I also have an extensive collection of vinyl and am a complete luddite... :) Does anyone really need to wear the internet on their sleeve?

  • I love my LG Urbane 1st edition but even though I have always worn a watch, I find the need to charge it every night a bit of chore. I've actually just left home to spend 6 nights away and left my smartwatch on my bedside table. I've got my Casio dumb watch on ATM so it should be an interesting experiment to see if I miss it. That is of course unless my wife or Santa bring me a new smartwatch for Christmas ?

  • Good article. Thank you. I bought my first smartwatch as an expensive experiment. I wasn't sure whether I would stick with it but now I don't go anywhere without it. I've had two Pebbles and now the Huawei Watch. It's been a great personal journey and it completely amazes me that people can talk about smartwatches being 'useless'. Thank you again for this article.

  • I've been wearing a pebble since the kickstarter edition. I currently alternate between the time and the round. I love having a smartwatch and don't plan to stop wearing one.

    • So are neckties, those spinning things on fancy car wheels, and just about every other accessory.

      What's your point?

  • I really like my Huawei. I like answering my phone on my wrist if my phone is inconvenient. I like voice to text. I like Google maps on my wrist. I wish Facebook would show the images (I don't care if it's cropped). Little less swiping would be appreciated. And shortcuts from watch face to key applets.

  • I've been wearing one since the Gear2. Gear S2 next. Now the Gear S3. I've always loved the experience of not pulling my phone out for notifications and unimportant calls. A lotta times taking calls, too, without disturbing or annoying anyone. They're expensive but I don't spend money on anything else.

  • I think there's a real risk that if Google were to enter the smart watch market in the same way they've just entered the phone market with the Pixel, all their partners would abandon the platform.

    Google was able to enter the smart phone market because it's matured. Samsung is established and companies like HTC, Sony, Motorola, LG, Huawei, etc are all hanging in there. There's also the side issue that Android is so massively fragmented that Google was compelled to enter to fix things. The smart watch market is entirely different. Every hardware manufacturer barely has a foot in the door. If you think Google's partners are struggling for smartphone sales, their smart watch sales are much worse. No one is turning a profit on these things. If Google were to come in full steam with a "Pixel Watch" it would create even further disincentives for Google's partners to continue with Android Wear. In the end, Google's partners are businesses that need to make money. Building smart watches is a hard place to do this at the moment so the last thing Android Wear OEMs need is a very wealthy, very technically competent competitor.

    This is why Google probably won't do anything like a Google branded watch for some time. They need to establish a flourishing ecosystem with their partners first - when this finally happens, or if this ends up failing, only then would Google be wise to develop their own branded watch.

  • I think there are a few issues they need to solve before they really take off:
    1. They need to look better. There isn't a smartwatch out there the doesn't look like a smartwatch. This is subjective, but most watches are round for a reason. But even those that are round are thick and look weird. And those without an always on display look particularly odd as most of the time they look like a big blank piece of black glass.

    2. They need to be substantially better than fitness trackers to justify the cost. Here's the main issue I see with them, Fitbits are better at tracking your activities and can also do notifications. Now I know you can't respond on a fitness tracker with your voice like you can with a smartwatch, but I've never found that experience to be all that robust. Yes, you could handle some replies etc., but the majority needed to be handled on your phone, and as such you are no better off with a smartwatch with the added inconvenience of constantly having to charge and manage it's battery. On the activity tracking front too, Google has done a really poor job here. Apple on the other hand have really nailed this (although leaving the altimeter out of the GPS enabled watches I think was quite a large mistake).

    3. Fear of obsolescence. Generally speaking you don't buy a watch all that often, but with the first sets of smartwatches, you're more than likely going to need to upgrade them quite rapidly. It wasn't that long ago I purchased the moto360 and I know already I won't be able to upgrade to Android Wear 2.0. So on top of having to refresh my rather expensive smartphone, I'm also signing up to having to refresh my smartwatch on about the same cycle.

    Basically I ended up dumping my smartwatch for a Polar activity tracker. It wasn't even intentional, I bought the Polar watch for running. But as it added notifications, I questioned why I was wearing my moto360. I can wear my Polar watch all the time as it's waterproof, I only recharge it once a month, it tracks my activities with GPS and hands me notifications while looking like a more conventional digital watch which costs about half that of a new smartwatch. It doesn't do everything, but it does enough and what it does do is simpler. I like to tinker, but day to day, something that just works and doesn't need a whole lot of management is more appealing. I'm currently eyeing off the Withings HR to get something which looks more elegant, can take my heart rate, only requires recharging once a week and can also do notifications without fear of it being obsolete in a year or so.

    • 1. Take a look at the ZenWatch 3, you still may not like it's style but it addresses those issues.

      2. Yes, The value proposition is an issue and yes Google Fit is a red hot mess.

      3. Yep, not really sure how to solve this, cheaper watches would be crap, but longevity is an issue.

  • I could say the same thing about tablets and all the tablet eulogies doing the rounds, including on Ausdroid. Tablets and smart watches will continue to be a thing and they will also likely continue to not be wildly successful. But I guess that's not a headline that gets clicks.

    On smartwatches, I've loved my Huawei watch for the year I've had it, but I use a lot of Google services and products it integrates well with, so I might get more out of it than others. Either way, as long as they don't kill the platform (which as you say constant negative journalism could jeapordise) I'm happy.

    • Agreed, I also use a tablet, two of them in fact daily. measuring anythign against the smartphone is pointless, help consumer PC's don't sell as well or as profitably as iPhone's, expecting them to won't help the platforms or form factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*