“Smart Watches” – Hype or The Next Big Thing?

Although I’m most certainly a fan of technology, I have yet to be convinced that so-called “smart watches” will draw the outpouring of consumer support many analysts appear to expect. Obviously, I’ve been wrong about such predictions on numerous other occasions so if you happen to see me wearing a smart watch later this year, I won’t hesitate to issue a public retraction (or perhaps just quickly pull down my shirt sleeve…)

The reasoning behind my skepticism is as follows:

Most people currently rely on smart devices (both phones and tablets) to gain rapid access to information that would previously have required a laptop. Although I can imagine a smart watch being able to provide some of this information (e.g., weather, sports scores, music, GPS navigation, news stories and other web content – delivered primarily in voice format over a blootooth wireless headset, etc.), the real problem is input – not output. Any remotely complex request would likely require the user to speak which makes interracting with the device in public not nearly as convenient (or private) as doing so with one’s tablet or phone.

There are potential “work-arounds” (for example, one could download content in advance and then privately listen) but the simple pleasures of being able carry on a text conversation during a boring meeting or being able to quickly “discover” a fact (or a word in a foreign language…) without letting others know you’ve done so, seem challenging – if not impossible – to replicate. Then again, at least with regard to translation, a smart watch might covertly be able to provide real-time translation . . . So until we know more about the types of apps being planned, making these judgments is at least semi-futile (ditto for “Google Glass…”)

Also, as noted, my view appears to be in the minority – if only based on the extreme amount of coverage these devices are receiving in the press (whether about Apple, Samsung or Sony – currently the three biggest players in the nascent marketplace). One such opinion, quoted in the below NYT article perfectly captures just how powerful this buzz really is: “Smart watches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets,” Chris Jones, an analyst at Canalys, said in a statement.” 

Now, that’s what I’d call a bold prediction . . .

Needless to say, if the Times is correct and Samsung is planning on launching as soon as September, we’ll at least quickly gain a sense of what early prototypes can deliver and begin to gauge their liklihood of popularity.

So – What do Frazerrice.com readers think? Game-changer or something more akin to Microsoft’s struggling efforts to sell half-tablet/half-laptop hybrids?

[“Samsung Said to be Preparing to Unveil Smart Watch,” The New York Times, 8/18/2013]

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