While the smartwatches available in the market today are actually nice and revolutionary, the sales of the watches are still slowly accumulating. It is expected that about 1.2 million smartwatches will ship this season, a paltry number when compared to estimated 1.5 billion smart phone users on earth. What could be the reason for this? It is likely that the current smartwatches do not have the critical components or features which will make them a runaway success.
The look of the smartwatch could be put into three separate parts, namely the watch body, the watch face and finally the wrist strap.
The first thing that folks look at would likely function as watch body. Is it too bulky, does it look cool and fashionable? The perfect body should be ideal for both casual and formal wear. For instance, the Pebble with its nice clean sporty look would blend well sports attire but might look a bit out of place when worn with a suit and tie. The newer contenders like the AGENT or Vachen however, could be worn with normal casual attire or formal wear.
The watch bodies should be at a reasonable size aswell. The size of the dive computers created by Suunto certainly are a pretty decent size without being unwieldy. They could be worn like a normal wrist watch and most divers do that.
Most guys do not mind larger watches but some ladies do. Should there be two watch sizes? Perhaps this might be a good solution, in the end, we’ve had watch sizes for men and women all of this while. However, add too much bulk to the watch also it becomes one chunky thing on the wrist that appeals to no-one. The difference in watch size could mean that more goodies could be crammed into it. A more substantial batter would be the most welcomed as well as perhaps some sensors as well?
Of course the watch body should match the watch face it is displaying. The watch face, like the body, should be able to match different dressing needs aswell. This is easier as the watch face could be changed with the press of a button. Which means this is a thing that the watch makers or alternative party developers will need to observe.
While the watch body can have a general design that fits most dressing needs, the watch face should match a particular theme. A formal classy watch face for more formal occasions to large sporty display for sporting needs, there must be enough watch faces to appeal to different users and their needs.
Pebble made this possible by releasing an SDK for alternative party developers to create their own watch faces. This has result in a huge library of watch faces for the Pebble. Vachen took a different approach. They develop their own watch faces but promise over 100 watch faces available upon the launch of the Vachen watch.
Lastly, the watch strap. Just like the two other parts mentioned, the watch strap ought to be able fit most dressing situations and you can find two possible ways to do that. The first way would be like the design fundamentals of the watch body in a way that the watch strap would look good whether it’s worn with casual or more formal wear.
Among this design method would be the watch straps of the Agent watch. It features an accent-stitched watch strap that looks chic enough for normal wear but the stitching adds that extra little bit of class that makes it blend with formal wear aswell.
A second option would be for the strap to be easily replaceable. While the Pebble and Agent use standard 22mm watch straps which are easily changed with a little screw driver, this might still be a bit too troublesome for a few, particularly if you change straps often or are in a rush.
The Sony SmartWatch and Motorola MotoActv offer a fascinating alternative. The watch body contains a spring-loaded clip which is used to clip onto the watch strap, allowing for really quick changes. The only downside of the method is that the clip adds quite a bit of thickness to the body.
That is a better method? Personally, I think a variety of both. The strap should be able to fit most situations but additionally allow users to change the straps as they like. Using 22mm straps may be beneficial as they are ubiquitous and so are available in many designs and materials.
Functionality and reliability
Other than just simply looking good, a successful smartwatch will be able to carry out its duties as a smartwatch aswell.
Firstly, what should the screen be? A touchscreen, normal LCD or e-ink display? Each option has its benefits and disadvantages and affects several key considerations of a smartwatch, like design, functionality and power consumption. To begin with, does a touch screen make sense for a smartwatch? Would one be able to use the watch without being frustrated with jabbing at this type of small screen?
A small screen would also imply that you cannot display plenty of information. Apple appeared to have tested this by releasing a touch-capable iPod nano, which many converted into a watch. But the iPod nano is still an iPod, did it do what we require of a smartwatch? Perhaps Apple has learned some interesting insights into wearable teachnology with the iPod nano “experiment”?
Having said that, I think that a touchscreen would add to the usability of the watch in comparison to pressing buttons to scroll and choose (that’s so 1990s right?). Besides, with touch screen smart phones being so ubiquitous now, this may be something that people expect.
However, this upsurge in usability is balanced off by a rise in power consumption. While it is great to have touch functions, it wouldn’t be so great if your watch needs charging every handful of hours.
When designing a new gadget, it will always be tempting to make it do more and more, adding function after function to it. But as Apple has shown, sometimes more could be less.
Will adding a feature or function enhance the value of the watch or take something away? For example, adding a microphone to your smartwatch to permit hands-free (well sort of) calling from your watch means that the watch wouldn’t normally be as waterproof as one with out a mic. Similarly, adding the clip to the back of the watch allows convenience at the cost of adding thickness.
Which is a better choice? There will be compromises that need to be made and everything is really a balancing act. Successful products can pick the features that folks want and take away the ones that only add fluff. If nobody really wants to talk through the watch, why add it in?
Notifications are a critical component of the smartwatch value proposition. For a start, they need to be reliable and pushed to the user as required. If notifications are regularly missing, the user won’t trust the watch and thus be required to continue checking their phones, defeating the objective of the watch.
Moreover, notifications must be informative and accessible. Enough information must be available on the watch face without being too cluttered. One issue concerning the Pebble is that it only shows the latest notification, which reduces the usability of the device.
Lastly, reliability is another important piece of the puzzle. Considering that smartwatches contain mini-computers running an operating-system, they too can crash or freeze up just as our computers do. For smart phones just like the iPhone, plugging the device into a computer and syncing with iTunes usually solves the issue.
But since smartwatches cannot do exactly the same, ie sync directly with some type of computer through a hardware connection, it will have a means of self rebooting to revive functionality or, at least, get basic functions just like the watch face and Bluetooth running. Imagine in the event that you bricked your watch and cannot get it to restart as
iLounge discovered if they bricked their Cookoo.
One thing I really like about the Agent is the use of redundancies to lessen the chances of bricking the watch. Best smartwatch for galaxy s7 To begin with, it uses two firmware memory banks to do something as a failsafe and a second processor that is able to restart the watch into recovery mode. This gives you the peace of mind that all is not lost even if something goes wrong on your watch.
Many believe that without the Apple SDK and App store, the iPhone 3G and subsequent models wouldn’t normally have been as successful because they are today. Apps provided a means for third party developers to extend the functionality of these devices.
Actually, with so many third part developers out there, apps and functionality can be added quicker and even much better than what the manufacturers themselves can do. But of course, watch manufacturers have to focus on the operating system core and hardware development aswell, so the development of the apps should best be left to external developers.
Given the financial incentive (ie paid apps), we are able to visit a maturation of the app market, moving from just watch faces to apps that add on a whole new dimension of functionality and collaboration between your watch and the phone.
While some might scoff at the idea of having to pay for apps (we all have been spoiled by the amount of good free or freemium apps available), wouldn’t it be a good thing for everybody if excellent apps were developed for the watches they use?
If the app can help shave off a half hour or so off our schedule every day or gives us a peace of mind when we need it, wouldn’t it be worth a few dollars? With a wholesome app market, app developers could have the financial incentive to create better and better apps and that may only benefit the users in the long run.
Once the Pebble’s makers released their new two way SDK in mid May 2013, it allowed developers to create two way communications into their apps so that the watch can now “talk” to your phone and your phone can “talk” back. The initial app to work with this new functionality may be the Pebble Ringer, which allows an individual to change your iPhone’s ringing mode.
This allows one to switch your phone to silent if you are in a meeting, vibrate when you are at work and back again to ring when you get home. It is not much now, but this simple app just barely scratches the top of what two way communication can perform. There might be far more that you can do to regulate your phone with just your watch. They are exciting times!