I will probably never buy a smartwatch that costs $399 or more

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| February 18, 2013

Many years ago, I used to gauge a particular device’s popularity by the regularity of which I’d see it while out and about. For instance, I knew everyone loved the original Motorola RAZR because I saw it everywhere I went. In all shades of colors. With cases, accessories, and whatever else people could use with their razor-thin phone. Whatever the case, I saw the phone all over the place. And, in 2008, a year after the original iPhone’s launch, I saw the original and iPhone 3G all over the place.

It isn’t scientific, but I don’t want to look at spreadsheets of sales numbers more than I have to. So just going outside and seeing the phones that people are using in the real world works well enough.

I bring this up because there’s a shift happening in our favorite market. Obviously we know that smartphones aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it looks like we’re starting to focus more on the accessories of those devices more than ever before. Just like Bluetooth headsets were all the rage (really?) a few years ago, we’re now using Bluetooth for another device: The smartwatch.

As Anna pointed out yesterday, we seem to be right on the precipice of the smartwatch becoming a pretty standard piece of our day-to-day lives. That’s an interesting point, considering that “smartwatches” aren’t new at all. Motorola’s had a smartwatch, a digital device that tells the time and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth all from your wrist, for a few years now. Sony has one, too. And there are other options as well.

Even Apple had their iPod Nano working as a smartwatch for a while. But, no more iPod Nano, so now we’ve got iWatch rumors. Makes sense.

There’s one rumor that makes Anna’s smartwatch predictions start to work a little more, too. That one comes from Samsung’s camp, and it includes the successor to the Galaxy S III. Rumor has it that the Galaxy S IV will come bundled with a smartwatch, something that’s just never been done before (as far as I’m aware). This would be a pretty bold move on Samsung’s part if it’s true, simply because they could probably make a pretty penny on just selling the device by itself, and preaching its perfect connection with their newest smartphone.

And, if true, it would put a bit more pressure on Apple to make something of their own, if they aren’t already. But, as aforementioned, there are already a sweeping number of rumors suggesting Apple is indeed making their own smartwatch to release this year. Anna’s future, where the smartwatch is a standard accessory, gets even closer if two of the biggest names in the mobile industry both put a major focus on smartwatches.

It would no longer just be companies creating cool watches that connect to our phones. We will see them all over the place. They won’t be as random as they are now. “Random” in the sense that, if you’re anything like me, you haven’t seen any smartwatches out in the wild quite yet. Despite the fact that they’ve been available in one capacity or another, they just haven’t caught on quite yet.

That will change in a huge way if either Apple or Samsung create their own smartwatch. It will change in a monumental fashion if both companies put a big focus on the smart accessory.

But, here’s the thing: It’s going to come down to price. Even if Samsung does bundle their smartwatch with a Galaxy S IV, they are obviously going to sell it to people who aren’t upgrading to that particular device (unless there’s a reason they wouldn’t, like specific features). The same goes for Apple. If they release an iWatch or whatever, they’ll sell it for everyone, but with a major focus on people who have an iOS-based device to couple it with.

So, pricing. Pricing will make or break the smartwatch industry. There’s no doubt that even the expensive smartwatches out there will be bought, but it won’t be as sweeping if they’re out of reach for, well, everyone.

Let’s just look at some prices, as they’re listed right now:

Motorola’s MOTOACTV is available through Amazon in several different versions. The 8GB-only (with no strap) runs $195.00. The 16GB option will cost you $289.00.

Sony’s SmartWatch is available through Verizon’s site for $129.98.

Pebble’s e-paper watch is only up for pre-order right now, but it’s listed at $150.00

And, while it may not be like these other options, Nike’s FuelBand has a clock feature (a watch function), and it retails through Nike for $149.

These are, for the most part perfect prices, if you ask me. They are indicative of a Bluetooth-based accessory for your smartphone. More than that, they are priced aggressively, and not necessarily out of reach or into the realm of ridiculousness while still offering up plenty of options for the owner.

And then we’ve got i’m Watch. A smartwatch that works with both Android and iPhone. Instead of just listing out the prices, I’m going to give you a nice visual approach instead.

So, first, we’ve got the standard aluminum i’m Watch:

Then, next up, the titanium i’m Watch:

Next, the silver i’m Watch:

And, finally, the white gold with diamonds i’m Watch:

Those are the real prices, which you can spend right now on their official website. These particular smartwatches connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. They run apps. Some of them have touchscreens. They tell the time, and they do plenty of other things, like handle your notifications. They feature the same things that other smartwatches do, but as you can see the prices are considerably higher.

And I can safely say that I’ll probably never pay that much for a smartwatch. In most cases, that’s at least $200 more than what people pay for their brand new smartphone. And this is an accessory for that device.

It’s just going to come down to pricing. Thankfully there are more options for the far more aggressive pricing. Then again, maybe a $400 smartwatch isn’t that exorbitant if you’re willing to drop more than a grand on your smartphone.

I’m perfectly okay with the smartphone market taking off, and seeing the awesome designs that people can come up with, along with the applications that could be designed specifically for the devices. I wouldn’t mind seeing BlackBerry 10-esque gestures implemented on a smartphone, especially Peek. That’d be pretty neat.

But, where do you draw a line in pricing for a smartwatch? Is $150 or similar the perfect price point? Or does $399 and higher make sense? Let me know what you think.

Products mentioned