Seems like everybody is hopping on the smart watch bandwagon, but where is it going?Anna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
Smart watches are something that I’ve been keeping my eye on for a while. Ever since I learned about the Pebble smartwatch I’ve been intrigued to learn more about them and had been curious as to what direction the smart watch would head in once the product finally started shipping. Would the smart watch become mainstream? Would the Pebble smartwatch be forgotten in a sea of smart watches with more functionality?
As it turns out, the Pebble version of the smart watch is the starting point of what seems like a very long domino effect of other companies following suit. Big name companies like Samsung, LG, Google, and Apple are said to begin production on their own variations of the smart watch. This is exciting, because I think that the idea of the smart watch is great and can benefit how certain aspects of our phones are used. On the other hand, I’m a little worried that it’s too soon and may push smaller companies like those behind i'm Watch and Pebble, who are using this as a way to get into the business, out of the way and into the water.
The Pebble smartwatch is a simple concept. The smart watch has a black-and-white minimalist e-paper display. You can receive notifications about who is calling, who you got a text from, and even preview e-mails. Some applications have even been made for the Pebble smartwatch that let you control your music stored on another device or track how far you’ve run or biked. It does a lot, but in my mind it doesn’t take away from the smartphone experience so much as it enhances it. This is how I think a smart watch should be – an enhancement, not a replacement.
But with larger companies like some of the aforementioned planning on making a move I feel like we might be getting in to more than we really need to when it comes to smart watches in general, and maybe a little sooner than we need. Apple and Samsung have been going head-to-head lately on who can bring the most innovative features to their smartphones, and I have no doubt that the same rivalry will carry over to any supposed smart watches that are currently in production. Google and LG wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best either, so now we possibly have four large companies that are going to be trying very hard to make their product the best, and who knows what they could include? Certainly they’re only going to improve on the one smart watch we already have available to us.
Now, I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing for there to be options in the smart watch business. Minimalist is not for everyone and there should be more options – maybe some people want to be able to have a voice activated response feature that allows them to dictate a response then and there, and maybe some people want to have little games they can play during their downtime without having to waste the fragile battery life that some phones have (Note II users: disregard). I do think this could play out to be bad news for the Pebble smartwatch in its current form. It’s only been a couple of months after its initial release and its already seeing the extremely fast-paced nature of the mobile industry, but since we don’t know exactly what these other smart watches might offer they might actually come out ahead of the competition.
For the most part I feel like Pebble hit the nail on the head with what features they decided to include and what features they opted against. Other than the overall design of the device (I personally don’t like it but there are a lot of people who do) I probably wouldn’t have changed a single thing. Pebble took the problems of past smart watches (battery life and overall functionality) and put it in a functional and easy to understand device.
I’m hoping that the smart watch industry is still seen as just a glorified accessory and doesn’t become such a hard-headed debate as our smart phones have become sometimes; at least on the accessory side of things we don’t see as much bashing or accusing going on over which accessory is best. In the same instance, the idea of the smart watch is still very new and it’s viable that the gadgets created around this idea could become almost equally as important as the smartphones themselves, therefore boiling down to the fact that the general consensus is that more features equals a better device.
I would like to see the Pebble smart watch continue to be seen as an equal competitor and not just a stepping stone towards much more advanced versions of the smart watch – at least not this soon. Just like with Android having more customization than iOS, and iOS having more features than Windows Phone, consumers deserve to have more options than just one or two, and the Pebble smartwatch's minimalist design should not be confused with slack.
Readers, what do you think about the possible impending surge of smart watches? Do you think smart watches have a solid place in the future with our smartphones? How do you feel about these bigger companies creating smart watches to compete with Pebble? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!