If this is Samsung's smart watch, it's already a failure

If this is Samsung's smart watch, it's already a failure

Summary: To achieve mainstream adoption, the wearable technology revolution has to reach beyond the geeks.

TOPICS: Samsung

According to the technology website VentureBeat, this is Samsung's new Galaxy Gear, a.k.a. its "Smart Watch":

Photo courtesy VentureBeat

I can't vouch for the veracity of these photos or the device portrayed within any more than you can. (Update: It's not, actually. See editor's note below for clarification.)

But I can say with certainty that if this is is truly Samsung's big entry into the "wearables" market—one considered to be the future of electronics and one estimated to be worth $6 billion by 2016—it is appalling at best.

Look at it. Look at it! It looks like a shrunken smartphone affixed to a plastic watchband. It is the spiritual successor to the Casio calculator watch. It is an accessory that proclaims its geekiness without hesitation. It is an inelegant object for which form and function follow nothing in particular, save for the smartphone from which they have been adapted.

This is all wrong. This is not where the wearables market is going.

Look around—wearable technology is already around you. Bluetooth headsets curl around earlobes. FitBits clutch bra straps and belt loops. Nike FuelBands hang from wrists, pinhole LED lights aglow. This technology is subtle, simple, and suitable for a wide variety of environments. It does not resemble the silicon embedded inside. It is not a tiny helicopter pad strapped to one's wrist.

Photo courtesy Google

Apple knows this. Nike knows this. Even Google knows this. When it introduced its Glass product—extremely geeky, in a LeVar Burton-on-Star-Trek kind of way—it marketed the smart glasses with elegant, fashion-focused photos. Though the device got some degree of traction in a glamorous industry (Glass has walked the Diane von Furstenberg runway in New York), its narrative has largely remained in the hands of the geeks who obsess over such things. Larry Page was not happy about Robert Scoble sporting them in the shower for his audience on Google Plus, and it wasn't because of the waterlogging that ensued.

The challenge for the technology industry as it takes further steps into the wearables market is that it must compete in a market that is no longer defined primarily by function. Take glasses, for example: they haven't been the same since the Italian conglomerate Luxottica first licensed the Bulgari brand to stamp on a pair of frames. Since then, an extremely practical object—one designed to help a large portion of the populace see—became a status object. There's a reason glasses are $400 now, and it's not because they work better.

Photo courtesy Warby Parker

Watches are no different. The digital revolution came...and replaced the low end of that formerly analog market with extremely accurate and inexpensive time-telling technology. Smartphones took that notion even further, replacing the wriststrap altogether. But plenty of folks wear watches, because they are now an accessory no different than a ring on your finger or hat on your head. It's about look—and at the higher end of the market, status. In 2005, news headlines declared that Russian president Vladimir Putin wore a $60,000 Patek Philippe timepiece, while U.S. president George W. Bush wore a $50 Timex. The narrative played into each's reputation as extravagant and populist, respectively. No one talked about how well each device kept the time.

As for Glass, Google has been rumored to be in talks with Warby Parker, the hip New York startup responsible for stylish, low-cost frames that downtown denizens love. The company knows that a geeky pair of specs—$1,500 or otherwise—won't make waves unless the technology is virtually transparent. You need a great pair of glasses before you wire them up.

Which brings me back to Samsung. Even if the pictured device is a prototype on its way to the real thing, it still demonstrates a lacking focus on what really matters: the watch part. Because the people who wear watches in 2013 don't need to wear watches. Which says all that needs to be said about wrist devices, the wearables market in general, and the technology industry's continued inability to sell people products that add up to more than the sum of their parts.

Update 1:30 p.m. ET: Samsung officially announced its Galaxy Gear watch hours after this post was first published. As you can see in CNET's photos of the device, it's much thinner than the version depicted at the top of this post, though it looks very much like an Apple iPad nano with a strap. (Or Sony's Smartwatch, which launched in April 2012.) Is it fashionable? Jury's out.

See also:

Topic: Samsung

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Bloglodytes blathering and bloviating

    Really getting tired of the Bloglodytes blathering and bloviating negativity. It was stated relative to this picture it was a Prototype. A prototype is an early sample, model or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. Get a clue.

    Maybe Sammy is going to just make a strap attachment for the Galaxy Note III so you can wear a full 6" smartphone with pen included on your wrist and call it the Swatch Mega or NOT.

    Jesus H Christ, you obviously get paid by the quantity not quality of your content.
    • Well lordy be.

      I have to laugh.

      And not just a bit, but pretty hard.

      Someone around here is tired of the "bloviating negativity" that abounds with seeming ease from so many, now a days often the writers of articles themselves.

      Well, why start complaining NOW??? Why not when the idiots who have been making similar remarks about products from other manufacturers sporting software from "other" companies?

      I can tell you this, I for one have been practically sick to death around here of the bloviating negativity that floats around like its fact, often clearly having some negative impact where negative impact wasn't fairly due. But of course, the person whos generating the bloviating negativity feels they are right on the mark and those who disagree are just plain wrong; probably trolls for "the other side". Its always the way.

      If I say it, or happen to agree with it, its magic words sooth saying that's revealing the truth and facts about some horrible poorly thought out product. If Im not willing to say it and I don't want to believe it its blind mindless bloviating negativity that fails miserably to take into account basic facts that would dispel the complaint if proper thought was put into the complaint in the first place. Simple opinion of one, made to sound like irrefutable fact that must be observed by all.

      The fact is, we all have products we like or dislike for various reasons. We should all have the right to say "I don't care for this product, and here are the precise reasons why...". If someone comes back and is actually ABLE to explain those reasons away properly, then you should either come up with HONEST better reasons why you don't like something or just shut the ...you know what up. If you don't like it, that's nice for you. If you cannot properly explain why, other then the fact the product is from a company you have sworn to hate, you honestly should get lost.

      Saying I don't like the way it looks means you don't like the way it looks. That's nice; it dosnt make for a bad product unless its a sweater or pair of pants. Saying an IT product is a bad product because you don't like the way it looks is rather like saying you wouldn't back a new design of a formula one race car because "you don't like the way it looks". Well good for you, that's your right but your an idiot because if that's where your at with your decision you don't get it at all. Some products don't look the way you expect when they are using new concepts when put in the correct hands to maximize efficiency. Sometimes that means users of the product will need to begin looking at things in a new way if they want to be winners, because those who are willing to do so will, and they WILL reap the benefits of such products while those who say, I wont accept change because I don't like "the way it looks" will be left behind and they WILL eventually be made to relearn or they will be left behind forever.

      Those who do simply lay on with the bloviating negativity about products they have "sworn to hate" will indeed eventually just be seen for what they are in the end. I guess in the internet age where people feel free to anonymously say whatever they like to online, no matter how clearly false, will continue to do so simply because that is the current state of affairs and they are free to a large degree to do so.

      But don't come on and cry me a river about the "bloviating negativity" about one product when we see it all the time about every other product there has ever seemed to exist in IT around here with the vast, and I mean vast majority starting off with things like, I hate the way it looks, its horrible, its useless, its garbage, its non functional, its junk, its crap. That's all non-responsive to the question: "why is it truly a bad product".

      I would hope there are many if not most around here by now who are so sick of the "bloviating negativity" about all sorts and kinds of products, many of which Im sure they themselves know to actually be good products, that we would begin to slowly fall into some kind of consensus to end the "bloviating negativity" and concede a little more to the other side from time to time when they have come up with an interesting new approach, when the product itself is decent, say its decent. If it cost to much, simply say, I feel its over priced. If you don't like the way it looks, say, I for one do not care for its appearance.

      But the days of swearing to the lie that a companies end is nigh on approaching because you say their latest product is crap is nonsense and should practically be met with a unanimous lynching these days. To instead claim those who point out such a clear lie are simply trolling for the other side is just one more lie on an another.
    • Evidence

      Do you have some evidence to support your point of view? This thing is ugly, it doesn't take a scientist to see that. As the headline states, if this is the Samsung smart watch it is already a failure, I agree, because nobody but the greasiest of nerds is going to wear this joke of a watch. I will change my point of view when evidence surfaces to support the contrary, like maybe a picture of a watch that isn't the size of a brick.
    • Uh, yeah...

      ...that _was_ it:


      On the plus side, once Apple's product is out, this klunky beast will undergo a radical redesign real quick.
  • You've missed the mark entirely

    The reason people don't wear watches anymore is because people have their smart phones. But smart phones have the same problem that pocket watches of old used to have, you have to fish it out of your pocket for it to be of any use. Having something wearable on your wrist or on your eyeglasses solves that problem.

    If the screen size were the most important part of the device, as it is for a phone (even if you do not need a phablet, there is still a minimum acceptable size for a phone), then wearing it on your wrist is pointless. However there are plenty of functions a wrist computer (that's essentially what it is) can do besides tell time. It can act as a phone with the aid of bluetooth or as a speakerphone without bluetooth. It can give weather reports, play music and video, give e-mail alerts and allow you to read those e-mails. It can act as an access point for your larger computers, such as a tablet or laptop. It can be a wireless (or wired for that matter) storage device. It can even be a full blown computer with the aid of an external monitor or TV, keyboard and mouse.

    It's a computer. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what you can do with one. If your problem is that Samsung isn't conveying that, well they aren't conveying ANYTHING at this point. It's a leaked image.
    Michael Kelly
    • Huh?

      Who doesn't wear a watch? You use a phone to tell time? WOW!

      BTW... I bet if that watch had a little silver apple on it... it would be a HIT!!!!
      Thomas Kolakowski
      • Emotions in Tech posts.

        " I bet if that watch had a little silver apple on it... it would be a HIT!!!!" Is there any better way to discredit your tech opinion that to write this type of drivel?

        Let me see, YOU are smart enough to see thought apple's hype, the rest of us are not? Is that it, slick? State your credentials. I helped in the development of the WWW in CERN. I have been building high speed country wide wireless networks for 20+ years, including the largest of its type in the world in the UAE.

        People use Apple products for their usability. That neophytes don't seem to get this and translate their IRRATIONAL Apple hate into some type of tech expertise is nonsensical.

        Get a life Kolakowski.
        • Soooo..

          Do YOU think the device looks anything close to an "iPod Nano with a strap"?????

          Do YOU think it looks like the Sony smartwatch from 2012??

          Noone in their right mind does!!! It is clearly nonobjective reporting!!!
  • I said it before, say it again

    That thing is an ugly device.
  • There is one flaw with the authors premise...

    and that is, that not everyone is a pretentious asshat that cares what other people think about them...
    • You have got to be kidding...

      It's ugly, no one cares about what I look like but me and I wouldn't wear that. Most people care about what they look like (regardless) and I would judge based on the laughter at the office when I showed this to about 6 IT guys it's a FAIL... They all pulled their Samsung, HTC, iPhone, Droids out and stuck them to their wrists laughed a hearty laugh... I think the best comment is that you don't need to ask someone what time it is, you can tell... from SPACE...


      On a more serious note, I don't think Samsung is this stupid - the production watch will be better looking.
  • The author must be extremely young...

    ...if the thinks watches haven't /always/ been "jewelry" and/or status symbols.

    Of course, if the display were smaller so that the watch were less ungainly (but it couldn't be read easily), the author would complain about /that/.
  • populous

    I have difficulty attaching much importance to something written by an author who can write 'populous' when he means 'populace'. We all make typos and other mistakes, but a professional writer is supposed to check his work or have it checked by someone who knows what they're doing. Or am I being an old fuddy-duddy? (I suppose so.)
    • Honest typo.

      These things happen; it has been fixed. Thanks for pointing it out. (There's nothing fuddy-duddy about it -- though I'd appreciate it if you gave me the benefit of the doubt next time.)
      • ....Dick Tracy....

        To quote Billie Holiday, "...don't know why there's no sun up in the sky...stormy weather....". Seems like some folks just like to make trouble. If the darn thing is too big, and the revised pictures I saw thanks to Twit.Tv show that it is smaller than once thought, it will never sell. Look folks, it's a watch that does other things. I had a Timex in the early days of computing which was huge. All it did was copy my schedule and phone book off the computer. I thought it was great....until the batteries failed and it cost too much to revive it. Fads come and go. Dick Tracy never had any trouble with his watch. We won't either. I side with the 'won't wear it' group; but you go ahead....and I am the geek.
        A. Genco
      • Populous - honest typo.

        Fair enough, apologies. (Even so, these things do matter.)
  • "To achieve mainstream adoption..."

    Why do you assume this is the goal of this device?

    Here's a thought - maybe it's one piece of a set of parts that work together and you don't need it to make it all work - it's one choice of...

    Oddly, every article I've seen posted on ZDNet on the Gear starts off like this: define your idea of success and then show why the Gear doesn't work for you - then generalize it to everyone and how it *should* work.

    Fortunately, pundits are often just entirely wrong - and the companies who make these things don't listen to most of them.

    Otherwise all we'd have are Apple products...
    The Werewolf!
  • I agree with the author

    It is not a utility device. Everything the smart watch is going to do is already done by something else you have on you today.

    It is about being seen swiping your wrist or being seen speaking into your wrist or wanting your wrist to be seen.

    It is of a domain that I have not see Samsung operate in before (NB: I am using a Samsung phone for the last four years). Short of stereotyping, this is usually done by a team led by a male with a pony tail and a broken wrist.
  • Smartwatches are 1960#s SciFi

    I'm still gobsmacked tech companies and bloggers are wasting energy on this useless 1960's B-Movie SciFi or Comic idea.

    No-one, except a diver, really needs a watch anymore, as the time is on your phone or desktop.

    Unless you are so sad you buy a fake Tag Heuer @ $10 to give the impression you have one, or are gullible to pay $2,000 for a real one.
  • Watch it

    Samsung new watch released please watch the video
    John Mathew Mt