Attack of the killer smart watches

Attack of the killer smart watches

Summary: Rumors would have you believe that no fewer than four companies are busily readying smart watches for public consumption. Problem is, the public hasn't asked for them.


First came the smartphone, and now comes the smart watch. The smart watch is a wristwatch that connects to your smartphone to present pertinent information so you don't have to take the phone out of your pocket. Because, you know, it takes a lot of effort to pull your phone out of your pocket.

(Image: ZDNet/James Kendrick)

The speculation about an Apple smart watch, already referred to as the iWatch, has been running rampant for a while. Like all such rumors about Apple, there is absolutely no proof that the company will produce and release a watch to the market. But they have 100 people working on it, if you believe the rumors.

Just the thought of an iWatch sets the competition trembling, so other companies are reportedly working on watches to take on the iWatch. That's telling, given that the iWatch doesn't exist. These aren't little companies either; so far, Samsung, Google, and LG are allegedly working on watches to compete with the magical watch that, again, doesn't exist.

If that's true, then we may soon have the iWatch, gWatch, sWatch and the lgWatch. That's a lot of smarts on people's wrists.

All of this hoopla about smart watches is kind of silly. There are already several smart watches on the market, and consumers aren't exactly lining up at the stores to get one. In fact, I'm not sure there is a market for a smart watch.

The last thing that most consumers want is a watch they have to remember to plug in to charge.

Look around and you notice something that flies in the face of the smart watch concept. The smartphone has largely replaced the watch for many consumers. If they want to know the time, they look at their phone. It's always right there on the home screen. A watch is nowhere to be found.

Sure, the smart watch will eliminate that tiresome need to pull out the phone to get the time. It can even give you the weather, show you email, present text messages — the works. All without pulling your phone out of your pocket.

But that isn't a big benefit to most folks. Look around — how many people do you see walking around with their smartphone in their hand? More than a few, I'll bet. Quite a lot do it, actually. So these folks have absolutely no need for a smart watch, as they always have their smartphone in their hand, showing them all the smartphone information. Now they're supposed to pay extra for a smart watch to also show it to them?

Smart watches are cool, but is the mass market itching for them? I don't think so. The last thing that most consumers want is a watch they have to remember to plug in to charge. How would they get the information they need with a dead watch? Oh yeah, that phone thing.

Don't get me wrong, I am enough of a geek to like smart watches. I've been playing with them for years, most recently with the MetaWatch I recently reviewed. But I'm not exactly the mass market that the product will require to make it big.

When I show the smart watch I'm wearing to regular consumers, I get the obligatory "that's cool" response. Not a single person has ever said that they want one, though, and that's telling.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Google, Samsung

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  • The argument is flawed.

    If nobody wants them, nobody will buy them, they will go away.


    Some will want them and those people will be able to buy the things they want.


    Many people will want them, many will be sold and a market and technology will evolve
    • ..

      So watches have become little more than jewellery. Well That argument is flawed. I've been able to buy a accurate watch for a fiver my entire life, so why do some cost thousands of pounds yet aren't even waterproof? I was a teenager when mobile phones came out. They replaced watches, not smartphones. I used to swim a lot and taking my then second phone and a watch to the pool increased the chance of loosing one, so I stopped taking the watch. Then when it broke I didn't buy another. Camera phones then replaced my digital camera on nights out and Walkman phones replaced my minidisc player. Yet it was still a couple of years before smartphones would appear.

      Smartphones replaced many features of laptops. They aren't watch replacements, they have some features of watch, media player, camera and computer and phones. The latest phones are also 4 times the price of that Nokia, getting on for twice the surface area, a LOT more fragile... I'm interested in a miniature remote type device for my phone or, more precisely tablet. If it's done correctly.

      So I'm with you. I think they may be limited success, but want one myself. As for the fuss about them? Well little else is changing in mobile phones lately...
      • Sorry about that

        Took a while to get past the new ridiculously strict profanity rules?

        I assume it is trying to stop those annoying bots?
        • "Richard" Tracy mentioned

          Mentioning Dick Tracy delayed my initial reply (and probably this one as well). Perhaps if I had referred to him as "Richard Tracy"...?
          Robert Dunehew
          • Spammers will figure it out...

            Look for spam touting the ability to increase the performance of your Dick Tracy watch...
  • iPhone and iPod

    iPods nobody asked for them. People had cds, records, and cassette tapes. iPhone nobody asked for them. People had blackberrys, windows mobile, and Palm.
    • True, but

      absolutely true, except for the iPhone... people was yelling out loud, asking for an Apple iPod-phone. I even remember when Motorola released the ROKR. Everyone was so disappointed, and the iPod-phone was now requested more than ever.

      Even the presentation keynote given by Jobs aimed at giving customers what they had been long asking for, remember? "A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communications device".

      But yeah... overall, most products weren't requested by the public at all. Tablets are famous for being "the device you never knew how much you needed".
      Ivan Fuentes Hagar
    • Maybe not.

      it's one thing to replace a bulky CD player and CD's with a device that's smaller, lighter, and doesn't force you to leave your house to buy music, nor carry around 6 or 7 CD's or cassettes.

      It's a whole different technology.

      Here you're trying to replace a watch with another watch. Sure it has added capabilities, but it's still a watch.

      What will it replace,. and what will it offer to make that happen?
      William Farrel
    • Ha! You missed the boat on this one.

      Nobody was screaming for the iPhone, thats like saying nobody was screaming for the automobile.

      The iPhone was the first touch screen phone and it showed the public that when it came to phones that it was pretty much impossible to compare versatility of a phone with buttons fixed in place and a small screen when comared to a larger screen device that had access to an never ending array of buttons popping up on a new touch screen after new touch screen that such a phone could display through web pages and apps.

      Many people had never ever realized that this is the kind of versitile convenience a touch phone had available unless you were already an iPod touch owner with a forward thinking mind. It dosnt mean nobody wanted it the instant they became aware of exactly what it could do.

      People already have a good idea what a smartphone could do and its not entierly inventive or special in the big realm of things. If they cost very much they just wont be worth it for most people.

      Just one more thing to make it easy to invade our own privacy.
      • People were asking for the iPhone

        Winphones, Treo, etc.... were in ever increasing demand. Easy to use were not very quality minded and some of the better ran Win. The iPhone concept was coming. Apple did it right first.

        A watch? I wear a very minimalistic one for dress but outside of that my phone does what I need in the info department. The need for charging would be a big "not" in my book.

        Now a kids thin flexible Firefly on the wrist with GPS? Hmmmmm.
  • iPad and iWatch

    iPad nobody asked for a them. People had Tablet Pcs, Grid, and convertible. Smart watchs nobody asked for them. People have smart watches already. Apple has a way of making people want what they produce.
    • Henry Ford on Innovation

      "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Henry Ford
  • I wonder if apple

    Is doing this deliberately to scare competitors into wasting R&D money.
    • I don't even wonder

      This is what everyone is doing. The trick with Apple is, everyone is so afraid of them that they only need to encourage some rumour to have everyone else lose focus.
      • Agreed

        There is a strategy at work here from Apple. Cant' wait to see it all unfold.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • my guess

    there will be an initial burst of people buying them due to the newness of it, then after a few months to a year the fad will die. there's just not enough motivation to spend $100+ on a device that does what your expensive phone already does, but much less well.
    • But it isn't new

      Sony and others have smart watches available already. And you can turn the small square iPod Nano into a watch with a $20 wristband accessory.
      • Exactly

        We have "smart" watches being sold right now .... and also multiple 3rd party wristbands for the iPod Nano.

        So where is the new part here?
      • You might be missing the point...

        Its not that these smart watches have not existed before, they have, just like touch smart phones did before the iPhone. Its the fact that the hardware has come to a point to make them viable and the needs have come as well.

        The "needs" (I put that word in quotes because need is a very strong word used rather weakly here) comes from two sides. 1) Phones have changed. I am looking at my next phone being a 5"+ device. I currently carry my phone on my belt at work and in my pocket elsewhere. A 5"+ will just look absurd on my belt, I just need to see if a server is down or my boss is calling me mostly. A smart watch fixes this. 2) Culture wise, it is becoming "rude" (another quoted word) to be whipping out your phone during meetings. Give me a smart watch and all I need to do is flash my eyes there now and then.

        Granted, things like Google Glass is trying to fix the same problems and then some but adoption of that concept will take a bit longer.
        Rann Xeroxx
    • To be successful, "it" has to do something radically different than a phone

      If the watch simply replicates some of the features of the phone and puts it on your watch, it will be a very niche type of device. To work as a market success, it will have to augment and extend the functions of the phone. The device will have to be able to stand alone but when combined with the phone, it needs to offer substantial improvements in some area.