The smartwatch: Tomorrow's must-have gear or a waste of time?

Moderated by Larry Dignan | February 17, 2014 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: With smartwatches wrangling for the spotlight at next week's Mobile World Congress, our debaters consider the prospects for this wearable technology.

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Must-have gear


Waste of time

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Must-have gear


Audience Favored: Waste of time (81%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Compelling cases

Matthew Miller: I started using smartwatches ten years ago with MSN Direct-powered SPOT technology devices. Microsoft was ahead of its time when you look at what companies are now providing a decade later. Technology has advanced over the last ten years and we are seeing some compelling cases for using a smartwatch.

Pebble launched as a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and I was an early backer. I think they have the right mix of notifications and applications and have a growing support community. Samsung's Galaxy Gear is a fine piece of jewelry, but goes a bit too far with its integrated camera and poor battery life.

As I look around and see more and more people with their face planted in a smartphone, I am convinced that it is time for people to look up and interact with others and I think smartwatches can help make that happen. One of the main functions of my Pebble is to triage incoming information and reduce non-vital distractions, and people have commented that I am spending a bit less time with my phone in my hand.

Novelty items

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: For me, smartwatches conjure up childhood memories of Dick Tracy, James Bond and Joe-90. The smartwatch was the ultimate do-anything gadget. You could use it to communicate with your team, test the air quality, and even fire a laser beam out of it if the going got tough.

But that's all make believe.

The reality as it stands in 2014 is that smartwatches are little more than an accessory for a smartphone. A little wrist-mounted screen that lets you do a small subset of what the smartphone in your pocket can do.

And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with smartwatches. Manufacturers see them as nothing more than a companion device for post-PC devices, rather than thinking outside the box and coming up with cool innovative ideas for what a wrist-mounted computer could be capable of.

Right now, they are little more than novelty items.


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  • Hard to say - needs a killer use case scenario.

    Hard to say - just like the 3D printer, it needs a killer use case scenario in order to really become mainstream. If there's some real, legitimate use for most people, sure - why not?

    BUT - if nobody hits the jackpot with a good way for most people to use it, it remains a geeky toy.
    Reply 72 Votes I'm Undecided
    • if you actually study smartphone usage as they are used

      You would find they are a waste of time for most people. so yeah, a smartwatch will be a waste of time too.
      Reply 100 Votes I'm Undecided
    • I'm with you on that note

      Have tried off and on watches with "features" going back to the calculator watch days. In the end I always go back to a "regular" watch. Have a couple of Eco's now.
      Battery, durability, viewability, and just plain "tell time" have always come up short in these gimmicks. Trendy with no real long term useful benefit.

      Wait and see. I'm just a tad doubtful though.
      Reply 107 Votes I'm Undecided
    • 3D printing is at least unique

      3D printer has a purpose, what purpose does any smartwatch have besides relay information that you already have on your smartphone? Most people have their phone some place to retrieve quickly if not always in their hand already.
      new gawker
      Reply 85 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Killer use case scenario: day-to-day life, everyday "pings"

      Most smartphone usage could be argued as being "in-n-out", you get a ping so you need to check what it was, evaluate it's importance (does it deserve a response or immediate attention?) and back out into the real world to continue whatever you were doing.

      Other times, you seek out information, like if you're tracking the time it takes to complete a task and you want to check the time of the stopwatch, or if somebody mentions "the email they sent you" and you want to rebut immediately, or if you want to check who that voicemail was from while someone's talking to you without being too blatantly rude.

      Put on that thinking cap and get creative with it, there's literally a million and one things that can be done with it. Some things are still limited by the hardware and these early versions of software for it.
      Reply 55 Votes I'm Undecided
  • The smart watches are desidedly guy's toys

    How about the other half of the population?
    As it stands now, they are way too ugly for the mainstream adoption.
    Smart watches can not succeed if they are geared exclusively for middle-aged men.
    Reply 64 Votes I'm for Waste of time
    • hmm...

      that is not stopping jewelers to make jewelry that is exclusively for women or cars that are exclusively for men or women. I am sure there will be version of smartwatches that are fashionable and would appeal to women.

      I am with Adrian on this.
      Reply 72 Votes I'm Undecided
    • .....

      I cant even see men wearing these since majority of men do not wear watches anymore or if they do they wear distinctive classy watches not a digital rubber made band that looks like a dork and cost $500
      Reply 80 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Smart watches can not succeed if they are geared exclusively for middle-age

      Nonsense. Many, many expensive things are geared exclusively toward middle-aged men.
      Reply 83 Votes I'm Undecided
  • They are running out of things to sell us.

    It's that simple. As PC's, Tablets, and Smartphones reach the saturation point, tech companies are looking for something else to get us to spend our money on.

    Sorry folks watches ain't it. In fact who the heck even wears watches anymore? Most people are walking around with micro computers in their pockets these days, that can take HD photos and videos, keep people connected to their various networks and even replace laptops. What does the smart watch have to add to the equation? I can't see myself browsing my Kindle selection on a watch.
    Reply 66 Votes I'm for Waste of time