Smartwatches: How long until you need one?

We look at the early smartwatch attempts to try and work out how long it will be before you really need one...

Incoming heavyweights

Apple and Google are the household names which have yet to make an impact in the smartwatch market.

Google has confirmed its Android Wear devices will ship in the summer. Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung are all onboard. The Moto 360 looks like one of the most intriguing devices, featuring a revamped interface specifically for smartwatches. It also has a classic look and feel of a watch, something Gartner's McIntyre feels could give it the edge.

"The Moto 360 is a high-end device that has the potential to appeal to customers as its traditional look will be acceptable to end-users," Gartner's research director told us.

Meanwhile, Apple's been long rumoured to enter the wristwatch market. As usual the iPhone-maker has been secretive about its plans, but the hiring of the executive behind Nike's FuelBand device has all but confirmed the existence of the fabled iWatch.

Reports suggest the iWatch has gone through a troubled development process but it could ship with a full version of iOS, a flexible display and biometric capabilities.

"An Apple smartwatch would garner a lot of attention, but it's not guaranteed to catch on. Plus it would face the same challenges when it comes to features like interface and battery life," McIntyre continued.

Challenges

Experts agree manufacturers have a number of problems to overcome before smartwatches become essential purchases.

On the engineering front, challenges such as improving the interface, display, battery life and connectivity can be tackled with experimentation and the availability of flexible, smaller and more efficient components.

Perhaps the hardest challenge is changing the mindset of end users and convincing them they need a smartwatch in their life. Despite Samsung's attempts to promote voice interaction, people don't feel comfortable speaking into their wrist. It will be interesting to see how manufacturers overcome this issue. One possibility is the inclusion of a Bluetooth headset with devices.

Long-term future

Smartwatches are not a necessity at present, but they do have the potential to become more useful in three to five years. One of the key factors determining functionality is built-in connectivity.

Wireless connections are limited to Bluetooth at present because of size/cost restrictions and battery life implications. However, as it becomes more feasible to add Wi-Fi, 4G, GPS and NFC, the use cases for devices will multiply.

As we move towards a society where sensors are placed all around to create an "Internet of Things" (IoT), the need for devices like smartwatches will also grow. 

"Potential use-cases include the ability to unlock doors, start cars and control equipment like thermostats and stereos with your wearable device," McIntyre suggests.

Such high-end functionality options will result in added security concerns too though.

Then we have the price. Both Dillon and McIntyre agree the sweet spot for pricing lies between $100 - $200. This appears to reflect the real-world demand with the basic Pebble, which has already proved popular, starting at $150.

Whether this price point can be sustained when functionality changes remains another matter.

With manufacturers still experimenting with design and functionality, it's hard to recommend a smarwatch as an essential purchase at present. Apple and Google's entry into the market is likely to speed up the rate of innovation, but realistically things are unlikely to get interesting until 2015 and beyond.

Featured Resources

B2B under quarantine

Key B2C e-commerce features B2B need to adopt to survive

Download now

The top three IT pains of the new reality and how to solve them

Driving more resiliency with unified operations and service management

Download now

The five essentials from your endpoint security partner

Empower your MSP business to operate efficiently

Download now

How fashion retailers are redesigning their digital future

Fashion retail guide

Download now

Recommended

Samsung's display, memory chip units account for almost half of total revenue
components

Samsung's display, memory chip units account for almost half of total revenue

29 Jul 2021
No new Galaxy Note this year, Samsung exec confirms
Mobile Phones

No new Galaxy Note this year, Samsung exec confirms

27 Jul 2021
Apple reportedly planning all-5G iPhone lineup for 2022
Hardware

Apple reportedly planning all-5G iPhone lineup for 2022

21 Jul 2021
Apple reportedly delays return to the office amid rising COVID cases
Careers & training

Apple reportedly delays return to the office amid rising COVID cases

20 Jul 2021

Most Popular

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility
high-performance computing (HPC)

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility

28 Jul 2021
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience
Mobile Phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience

14 Jul 2021
Zyxel USG Flex 200 review: A timely and effective solution
Security

Zyxel USG Flex 200 review: A timely and effective solution

28 Jul 2021