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Why Smartwatches are Still a Dumb Idea

The Gear Fit tries to be many things, but is not great at any one of them
The Gear Fit tries to be many things, but is not great at any one of them
Brett Day

Smartphones dominate our lives, and just when you thought there could be nothing else to consume your time, along comes the smart-watch. Long gone are the days when a watch would simply tell you the time. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, and Google are set to invade your wrist within the next few months with their new smartwatches, but what's the point? Let's take a look at why smartwatches are still a dumb idea.

They're not smart by themselves

If you have been following popular tech blogs over the last few months you will be fully aware that the major players in the smartphone world are planning to launch smart-watches, but the kicker is that these watches are not smart at all, at least not by themselves because they all need to be connected to your smartphone to do anything.

Apple's offering which has been dubbed the 'iWatch' will apparently try to elevate the smart-watch by combining FitBit and Jawbone like health functionality (even more likely now that Nike have cancelled the Nike Fuel, and have joined the Apple ranks) and will be able to display text messages, emails, calendar entries, voice mail information, and missed calls when it is connected to your iPhone.

All of these features sound great in theory, but as of yet, no manufacturer has found a perfect balance between form, and function. Samsung have been struggling with this with their new Gear Fit smart-watch. I have one on right now, and while it works pretty well for the most part it still has issues and is nowhere near worth the $199 price tag. Again like the rumored Apple iWatch, the Gear Fit is pretty worthless when it is not connected to your $600 smartphone

The problem is that the Gear Fit it is not quite a health tracker, and is not quite a fully fledged smart-watch, and honestly it is just a pretty standard (albeit beautiful) watch without your phone. Yes the Gear fit works, but it does not do any one thing particularly well, and this is the issue that Apple with face with the iWatch, that Google will face with their Google Now offering, and LG will face with their device. Right now manufacturers just aren't sure what a smart-watch should be, or what it should do, so we are seeing devices that are just a hodge podge of features that don't work well together.

By themselves smartwatches are just like any watch on the market today, they will be able to tell the time and maybe count steps walked, but that is it, unless you connect it to your phone. Smart-watches might be able to add features such as pedometers that can track how much you are walking, heart rate monitors, GPS, MP3 players, the ability to control the MP3 player on your phone, add infinitely customizable watch faces and themes to make it stand out from the crowd, but the fact remains that until smartwatches can perform all of these functions without having to be connected via Bluetooth to a phone, they simply cannot be considered worthwhile, especially when they cost so much money.

Small screen sizes

The idea of a 'James Bond' watch sounds amazing, but just how practical can they really be? Reading emails, writing text messages and even using calendars on smartphones is easy because the size of their screens allow you see, and input information quickly; however, smartwatches will not have this luxury simply because wearing a three-and-a-half-inch display on your wrist would make you look hideous.

Being a watch the device has to be small enough to wear on your wrist, which means reading emails from your wrist would be excruciatingly difficult, simply because the text would be so small. Having such a small screen to read messages would also be time consuming because you would have to constantly scroll down the page to read the message. Another thing to consider is that if you receive an email or text message that needed an immediate response, you would have to pull your smartphone out anyway because typing on such a small screen would be impossible.

The Gear Fit was released before some of these issues were really thought about. The orientation of the screen was an issue when it came to reading messages, and while Samsung have released a patch to alleviate some of the orientation issues, functionality is still poor, so poor in fact that I do not even have the ability to read email turned on. I do have the ability to read small text messages turned on, and it works, but not very well simply because of the endless scrolling. Screen sizes will really limit just how good these devices can be. In a pinch they work okay, and yes you get to read your messages, but replying with a meaningful response is not going to happen unless you pull out the smartphone from your pocket, which defeats the whole point of having a smart-watch.

Granted, the ability to see if you have a new message, email, phone call or upcoming appointment on your watch is a grand idea, but not being able to do anything about them without grabbing a phone out from your pocket makes the smart-watch obsolete.

Calling, Dick Tracy

In the future (perhaps the near future) when smartwatches are able function independently, without needing to be connected to a smartphone I can see them really being a useful addition to every day life, but until that point in time, they are nothing more than a overpriced smartphone accessory, a gimmick, or fashion statement.

The idea of being able to place a call straight from your watch just like, Dick Tracy and having the ability to compose emails or text messages via voice without having to grab your smartphone sounds marvelous, unfortunately the first batch of smartwatches from the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung will not be able to do this independently. Even smartwatches that are on the market right now from the likes of Pebble and Sony are struggling to gain traction, simply because there is no real need for them.

I have no doubt that one day smartwatches will be common place. As technology evolves and our dependence on being connected to everything all the time grows, smartwatches will become the go to device for business professionals, technology guru's, and even socialites who just want to stay in touch, but right now smartwatches are just not that smart, and are not worth the rather large initial outlay. Having taken the plunge into the smart-watch world myself, I would say hold off on jumping in, wait a few years for kinks to be ironed out, for battery life to be improved, and for true smartphone independence to be implemented. Once these issues have been addressed, we will truly be able to call devices smart-watches.

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