I’m getting a smart watch for my birthday. It’s a big one, the birthday not the smart watch, although I’ll admit the current models aren’t the smallest arm wear ever. Ever since Android Wear and the first three Android Wear smart watches were announced, I’ve wanted one. Not because they are new technology and the latest thing, or because I want to show off. My phone is over two years old, and my tablet is even older – my tech purchases tend not to be on a whim. No, I want one because I genuinely think it will remove some pain points in my interactions with my phone, and I can see the potential for a smart watch to make my life a bit easier.
To be clear, I don’t think there is a single ‘killer’ app which makes a smart watch a must have for everyone. Like some other gadgets (tablets for example) it’s not about being able to do some new thing you couldn’t do before, but about making specific use cases simpler and easier. Taking something we do now, which might be sub-optimal in some way, and improving it in some way. I think smart watches have the possibility to do just that. Those use cases might not apply to everyone, and if enough small use cases apply to any given person, then a device which improves them would be a compelling purchase.
Telling me that ‘you can do that on your phone’ when I mention smart watches is like me telling a tablet user they could do that on their laptop, and telling a laptop user they could do that on their PC. It would be like me acting all surprised when you showed me your new mobile phone in the late nineties or early noughties and asking why on earth you needed to make phone calls on the move? And as the last decade progressed, telling you that smart phones are pointless as they can’t do anything a PC couldn’t. You get the drift – it’s not about doing something new, it’s about doing something different, hopefully better.
For me this means having my phone unlocked when I’m near it so that when I use it I don’t have to type in the damn PIN every 10 minutes, but only when I’m near it. When I leave it on a desk at work by accident, I still want it to lock so no one else can use it. Actually, I want to be reminded that I’ve left it on the desk as I walk away so I can go back and grab it so I don’t leave it behind, that would be far better. During my commute to the office, I use an electronic ticket on my phone, and it would be great if I didn’t have to arse around getting my phone out, unlocking it, and showing the driver the display every time I get on a bus. Since my commute involves two buses each way, that’s at least four times a commute. Seeing if a call or message needs to be answered before getting the phone out of whichever bag or pocket I put it in, getting public transit times, directions and, seriously, even checking the time (I don’t wear a watch at the moment), are all small interactions that over the course of a day could be improved with a smart watch. I also need a new heart monitor since my Polar chest strap has run out of juice, and it’s an old model with a non-replaceable battery – that’s another tick in the box for a smart watch.
It would make even more of a difference in winter, when I wear gloves when out and about since the temperature gets very cold here – with gloves on, using a phone is no fun, and without, your fingers can get very cold very quickly. I’d much prefer to limit that exposure.
Smart watches. Not a new killer device that everyone must have, and not a pointless gimmick either, just another tech tool that some people will find useful and some won’t, and that’s exactly as it should be.