Will the smartwatch destroy the smartphone?

by: Nate SwannerFebruary 17, 2013


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

  • Has anyone considered the option that all these smart watches will be targeting the youth market? For kids who don’t have pockets deep enough (or big enough) for a full smartphone.

  • Vinnie

    Let’s see, to check the time or see what the latest notification is do I want to look at my wrist or dig my phone out of my pocket, pull up the screen and swipe it or tap in a PIN just to find out it’s something unimportant. Yes, I know that I can see the time without unlocking the phone but why bother fumbling with the phone at all. GOOGLE glass would make it all very simple but at what cost? Further, a large percentage of us wear prescription glasses or work in environments that require safety glasses. How is that going to work out? There are many situations where playing with a phone isn’t the thing to do. It seems to be trendy among internet soothsayers to boldly state that the watch is dead or a relic of the past but I strongly disagree.

  • Joaquim Amado Lopes

    The smartwatch is not supposed to “kill” the smartphone, unless both concepts “merge” in a device that can be worn(?) as a watch and has a (flexible or foldable) screen as large as a smartphone. Nokia 888 concept, anyone?

    Until that happens, the smartwatch not only has numerous uses as a standalone device it also complements the smartphone quite nicely.

    Add GPS to a smartwatch and it may be much more practical than a smartphone to get directions from point A to point B. It would also be useful for runners, campers, geocachers, …
    Synchronize schedule and tasks.
    Shopping lists.
    Add microphone and speakers and have voice notes.
    Add text notes and cheat on exams.

    Connected to a smartphone, the smartwatch would allow you to do a lot of thinks with the smartphone without having to take it out of your pocket.
    Mute and unmute.
    Refuse, answer and make calls, voice and video.
    Reply with prerecorded messages (“in a meeting, call you back later”).
    Check for text messages and social media updates.
    Search contacts for address information.

    Just from the top of my head. With hundreds of thousands of apps for smartphones, there are certainly hundreds more uses that can be duplicated to the smartwatch.

    P.S. (post-scriptum)
    I find it interesting you saying that a Bluetooth headset is silly immediately above a picture of the silliest looking (and most useless?) gadget around.

  • amin zameel

    Is that pic above the Samsung latest smart watch rumor photo as it is using the flexible display…………..

  • Bruce Gavin Ward

    the smart watch is, in my opinion a dumbIdea; as a default, seemingly since preHistory, people have worn watches on their arms, admittedly since that is the only appendage available on a relatively constant basis [less so in Canada considering winter apparel]. and since the old clocks of the round 2×12 hrs variety were able to be made sufficiently small to fit there, but sufficiently big enough to read, it more or less worked. however, seemingly unobserved by most of society (considering the ridiculous adherence to “half”Day clocks) since the demise of analogue, and the availability of digital technology, there are time displays “everyWhere”! The personal clock has gone the way of the Dodo; except for billions of holdOuts, who refuse to think it through and change. And you might say the “watch” could (due to miniaturization replace the smartPhone, but it won’t. Because as batteries become small enough to make the hardware possible, our eyes/vision, will delay the transition until the brain chip which i feel is less far off than power sources of microscopic proportions, eliminate the smartPhone [and the watch]. i by the way, haven’t used a wrist watch for the past 50 years.

  • A watch with a display and a computing processor, along with a small battery will die very quickly. A normal watch is supposed to last you for years. Either way, I won’t be along for the ride; this is one gimmick I’ll pass on for now.

  • Nope. Bluetooth 4.0. The SmartWatch is an extention of the smartphone and tablet. You see the notifications on the smartwatch to decide when you want to pull out the 5.5″ smartphone or 7″ tablet from your pocket.

  • Ivan Budiutama

    hardly, at least, not in non-English speaking user base. At the very least in my own country. Auto-correct is a mess, switching language is a pain since I usually go bilingual. English voice typing might work well in English command and voice typing. But hardly useful in other languages, also need to switch things occasionally. So, Smartphone it is.

  • I think the Pebble, with it’s low power e-ink screen is on the right track. My phone has a nice 4″+ screen and it eats power like crazy. If I can avoid activating it every time I get a notification, I suspect the juice will last a lot longer.

  • Hanshen Jordan

    how about playing Asphalt or Modern Combat on your smartwatch…. :v

  • William

    It’s bad enough that people are often careless with phones, imagine how dangerous smart-watch or Google Glass will be?