2014 was infamously coined as the “Year of the Smartwatch” and in a way that was true. We saw the emergence of Android Wear from Google and also saw Apple announce the Apple Watch. With two of the biggest names in the tech world entering the market, the future looks bright for us consumers. Following suit, many other companies have also stated their desire and/or plans to bring their own entry into the market including luxury watch making brands.
Whether or not smartwatches are truly useful is up for debate, they are essentially an accessory to your smartphone and actually limit the time you spend on the device you paid hundreds of dollars for. Keeping that thought aside, it is clear that a smartwatch right now is catered more towards the tech-savvy crowd who understand its merits and demerits yet still wish to indulge in the latest tech.
Coming to the title of the article now, why don’t I own a smartwatch?
First Generation Products
Instead of beating about the bush, i will head right into the number one reason why I do not own a smartwatch yet – these are first generation products. Lets start with Apple, the company has historically had second generation products SIGNIFICANTLY better than their first edition. Take a look at the iPhone, iPad and even the iPods, all 2nd gen devices were leagues ahead of the first.
Moving on to Google, Android Wear too is 1st gen and is powered by low spec hardware. Now smartwatches do not need powerful internals to run but I am mainly pointing towards the Moto 360 which runs a dated processor as an example. With advances in chip manufacturing, the next generation of Android Wear devices could see great improvements in performance and battery life.
“Your watch is so 1st gen”
Finally to re-iterate my point and its significance, take a look at the Pebble Time. It is a shining example of how much better a 2nd gen product can be particularly in the smartwatch market. So for now, I’m just waiting for the next batch of products.
I hinted at battery life in the previous section when talking about the internal hardware being dated on Android Wear. Battery life is popularly considered the key to success for smartwatches. Nobody wants to charge their “watch” every single night like their smartphones. In this regard, the only notable success has been Pebble. Their products offer between 5-7 days of battery life, which is at least 500% better than the next entry. Most Android Wear devices offer 1.5 days of battery and reports put the Apple Watch’s battery life at less than a day. For most consumers including myself, battery life remains a major factor to consider.
“For most consumers including myself, battery life remains a major factor to consider.”
I wear a watch every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When I am not wearing a watch I honestly feel restless. In fact, I have a permanent tan on my wrist from wearing a watch all the time. For me, I purchase a watch based on either its durability or aesthetics or a combination of both. Coming to my point now, I do not want to wear a geeky toy on my wrist, I want a timepiece and a round one at that.
My logic for purchasing a smartwatch is that I will spend $200-$400 for a good looking regular watch so why not spend that money on something that also looks good, tells me the time and also has additional functionality.[slider crop=”yes” slide1=”https://www.techetron.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/huaweiwatchh.jpg” slide2=”https://www.techetron.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/LG_Watch_Urbane_LTE_500.jpg” slide3=”https://www.techetron.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/applewatchedition.png”][/slider]
Let’s take a quick look at the smartwatches available now; all the Pebble options do not look like a traditional, classy timepiece – therefore eliminated. The Asus Zenwatch again does not look like a traditional watch and has those large ugly bezels. The original G Watch, Gear Live and Apple Watch are rectangular and again, do not look like real watches. That basically leaves the Moto 360, G Watch R and the unreleased Huawei Watch and LG G Watch Urbane – all Android Wear Devices.
To conclude the segment, there are only two available options suiting my preferences and both are halfway through their product cycles.
Compatibility & Price
Android Wear is restricted to Android devices only and the Apple Watch restricted to iPhones. Pebble’s offerings are the only notable products compatible with both platforms. The problem here is that if I am using an iPhone (like millions of others on this planet) and if I fancy the Moto 360, I need to buy an Android device first before going for the compatible accessory. This works both ways with Apple Watch and Android devices.
“Moral of the story: there are theoretically a lot of consumers very concerned about price, compatibility and battery life.”
Oh and then there’s Samsung with their Tizen based watches which only work with the latest Samsung smartphones thus limiting consumer choice the most.
Aside from platform compatibility, I should also mention that Android Wear and Pebble smartwatches are compatible with standard watchbands used industry wide whereas the Apple Watch uses a proprietary watch band so if you are like me and already have watch bands that you’d like to cycle through, the Apple Watch isn’t an option to consider.
“Is it worth the price-tag?”
Moving on to the numerical side of things, most smartwatches do not come cheap. Android Wear devices go from $99 up to $300, the Apple Watch starts at $350 and goes up to $17,000 and the Pebble devices start at $150 and go up to $300. Aside from the Apple Watch, most competitors are below the $300 mark. The problem here is the whole dilemma of “Is it worth the price-tag?”.
The importance of compatibility and price was evidenced clearly by Pebble Time backers on KickStarter. Right after the Apple Watch event earlier this year where pricing and first word on battery life was revealed, KickStarter backing for the Pebble Time soared. Before the event, Pebble was raking in $6000 per hour in backing but right after the event, they drew in a whopping $16,000 PER HOUR in backing! Moral of the story: there are theoretically a lot of consumers very concerned about price, compatibility and battery life.
Support & Long Term Value
Coming to my final point on this article, we do not know how long our new shiny watch like gadgets will be supported. My current old school watch doesn’t have electrical components nor a software platform, hence there is no worry in terms of having it up to date. Android devices get updates for about 2-3 years, same goes for iPhones and the likes. If I drop $300 – $17,000 on a smartwatch now, I need to be guaranteed that I can sue it at least 3-5 years from now.
If a consumer purchases a watch from a well known brand today, they can sell it at a good price close to the original purchasing price 10 years from now. Unfortunately, this will not be the case in terms of smartwatches purely because they involve technology. Any smartphone worth $900 today probably won’t even sell for a tenth of the price 10 years from now and the same applies for smartwatches. There is the exception for the gold Apple Watch Edition but if it retains any value in the future, it will be for the metal in the device only.
Smartwatches are great, they are not the best gadgets nor the most useful ones on sale but they are pretty darn cool. Most offer more or less the exact same functionality but in a different outer shell. For now, they are essentially a proof of concept, people are interested in them and are eager to jump on board. What manufacturers need to do over the coming months is give consumers what they want in order to succeed, namely battery life, compatibility and real watch like aesthetics.
Price will always be a subject of debate, manufacturers won’t just offerr them up for cheap, they obviously want to maximize profits. At the end of the day, as a consumer I am searching for a product that suits my tastes and stays with me for a good number of years. The only question now is who will bring that particular gizmo to the market.