25th Aug 2015
Google was not the first company to promote a smartwatch. The revolution started a long time ago with brands like Sony and Pebble, followed by Samsung. Then one fine day Google steps in, and thanks to Android, decides to introduce Android Wear as a platform for manufacturers to better their wearable offerings and bring them all on common ground like it did with the Android smartphone.
Progress with wearables as we knew it, had halted, and you can blame Google for it. We soon had a number of smartphone brands announcing Android Wear powered devices, that not only looked chubby and geeky, but also sported a similar interface (a fate similar to Android’s current range of smartphones).
A year later, there seems to be an exodus with brands leaving Google’s Android One aside and building their own hardware and software; tuning and optimising it to deliver better battery life and what they think will be a simpler UI.
But there are still plenty of problems with the smartwatch of today:
Pick up any of the Android Wear smartwatches and even with minimal use, it will switch off by the end of the day. Battery is the smartwatch’s biggest enemy. It was the problem with the LG G Watch and it is still the problem with Apple Watch as well.
Moving away from Android Wear selection, we now have watches like the Alcatel OneTouch and the Pebble Time that deliver more than a day (2-7 days) of use. So Yes, this theory does work.
However, bigger batteries, are not really the answer, its GPS module that utilizes less power and an e-paper display that utilizes minimum battery life while on.
What good is a smartwatch when it dies out in a single day and costs a pretty penny? Pebble’s Time Steel is the answer to this, but it can only offer a 10 day battery and is yet to hit mass production. Paying a premium price for an ugly but functional Samsung Galaxy Gear S makes little sense.
Its geeky looks turn heads for all the wrong reasons. Moreover, smartwatches these days look more like bling compared to good looking traditional timepieces that showcase quality, durability and class.
Shorter life compared to traditional watches
As the days go by, technology will progress, but for now nobody is interested in buying a smartwatch that costs over Rs 30,000 (apart from Apple fans) simply because it will get outdated too soon. You are indeed better off with a a traditional watch (quartz or automatics) that will keep telling the time for decades without problems and still remain a masterpiece of mechanical engineering.
On the other hand an expensive Apple Watch will get outdated in a year and could be termed as a ‘slowpoke’ when the new model gets announced. Where is the value?
Complicated operating systems
Swipe up, Swipe down, Swipe to the left and swipe right. As of today, the Pebble and the Pebble Time still seem to be the simplest smartwatches to use. This can be attributed to the fact that it requires a gradual learning curve and no gestures at all. But this again limits it functionality and makes even the Pebble Time look pricey for what it offers.
Samsung’s upcoming round, Gear S2 smartwatch is expected to use the bezel to navigate the smartwatch, but that does not mean that it is not going to have a touchscreen. So again, we have more than one way to interact with the UI, meaning that it is going to be complicated.
Need to tag along a smartphone
As of today, there is clearly no smartwatch out there which works all by itself. You will need to carry your smartphone to connect it to the web to download, sync and access app data and display contextual information.
Since all of this is done with assistance with your smartphone, it simply means that you now have an additional device to charge at the end of the day.
Google did unlock Wi-Fi capabilities on some Android Wear smartwatches. Still then it remains to be seen how long these devices last. This is considering that Wi-Fi does take up a lot more power compared to Bluetooth that just syncs data with your phone and lets your phone do the actually data syncing.
Smartwatches will get there eventually, but there is a long way to go. More importantly, smartwatches need to get independent and efficient before they find a commonplace on a geek’s wrist, let alone replace the traditional watch.
Five Problems With Smartwatches Today
Wearables are the future, but as of today, they are not quite there yet.
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