Will the smartwatch destroy the smartphone?

February 17, 2013
196

Pebble

With all the talk lately of smartwatches, and the fervor surrounding them, we’re left to wonder what their purpose really is. What we have now is basic and unpolished. Do they have a place in our future, or are they destined to be on future “device failure” lists? Let’s consider what we have now, and ponder the future of these little powerhouses.

What is a smartwatch good for?

They’re fun, just not functional. The idea is pretty cool, but the functionality is lost. We can check messages, but not respond on the watch. It needs to tether to your smartphone or other device via Bluetooth, meaning they’re not an alternative, just an accompaniment. A smartwatch will let you readily see what is going on, but you’ll still need a smartphone, tablet, Chromebook or the like to properly interact.

Pebble-smartwatch-orange

In a landscape of growing smartphones, shrinking tablets, and pixel density being a key concern… a small screen with a crude interface just doesn’t seem like the way to go. It looks like an RSS feed for your emails, and things like social media are just more interesting with pics and video. How will you see that YouTube video someone shared in the comment stream on your Google+ post? You’ll have to get your phone out of your pocket. Smartwatches are lots of fun and a cool concept, but nothing special… yet.

What is the potential?

Let’s first consider the parameters: the small screen, and a limited size for hardware. We also have to understand that the watch will never be the phone or tablet, but some of the functionality can translate. We may also realize a future where the smartphone just plain goes away completely.

Emergency!

The device may have realized it’s potential by now, being little more than a display by which to keep us informed. That’s okay, and may have it’s place. In this respect, it’s not the technology we need to concern ourselves with, it’s the application. Perhaps this could be a better way to alert emergency teams to react accordingly. If it’s right there on your wrist, in your face, it’s much harder to ignore than a phone in your pocket.

Security

There are some security function with the smartwatch, as it currently stands. It could provide an additional layer of security for those who need it, like government agencies or tech companies. Sign in or swipe your access card, then have to acknowledge on your watch that you are currently standing at the door or sitting at your workstation. For those places that need to be sure the right people are seeing the right things, the smartwatch has a lot of potential.

Kinetic_Smart_watch

Video conferencing

The smartwatch could end up being a very crude way to see and interact via Skype or Google+ Hangouts. The purpose of any mobile technology is to keep us connected and communicating, all the time. We may never see a 1080p smartwatch, but imagining a time where we make more video calls than regular ones is not far-fetched. Let’s also not limit ourselves to the thought the smartwatch can’t get any larger than it currently is, making this option much more tangible.

Voice control

We may not want to type out an email on such a tiny screen, but if voice recognition gets to a point where it just doesn’t fail, dictating an email seems much more palatable than hacking one out on a keyboard. Let’s also be honest that talking into your watch is much cooler than holding your smartphone out in front of your face. A watch is also a lot less intrusive and silly than a Bluetooth headset.

Sergey Brin demonstrates Google Glass

Ditch the smartphone!

There are smartwatches, and Google Glass is coming at some point. We have flexible displays, and waterproof mobile devices. Is it plausible to think we could, at some point in the not-so-distant future, completely ditch our smartphones? I know, you’ll miss the Note 2, but with a wearable tandem there isn’t much we won’t be able to do. In fact, it could be a lot better that way. Neither of those technologies may ever completely encapsulate what we currently get with a smartphone, but the tandem could kill the smartphone, just like the smartphone killed the watch. Perhaps a situation where a Samsung smartwatch does different things than an LG one, but both utilize the same Google Glass headwear. Skinned devices actually on your skin… now that’s something to wrap your head around, or vice versa.

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