Smartwatches need to go away.
They are everything that is wrong with consumer electronics.
It doesn’t matter how many watches Apple sell, it won’t ever make them a good idea.
1. Nobody ever asked for smartwatches.
Smartwatches weren’t created to meet a consumer demand, because there never was one. Most people just don’t really see the point in watches that do stuff other than tell the time.
Sure, there’s a limited market for heart rate monitors for people serious about fitness training. But most people who try out this sort of functionality don’t keep it up, because it’s sort of interesting for a while but turns out not to be very useful.
And yes, schoolkids found calculator watches cool for a while in the Eighties, but that was because they were handy for cheating in maths tests, and they became redundant as soon as proper calculators became acceptable for use in exams.
Truth is, people don’t need these devices. The manufacturers do.
These are products born of MBA thinking and the imperative to expand ceaselessly in every conceivable direction. They’d already persuaded people they needed tablets – an enlarged, less versatile smartphone – so the logical next thing to do was to make a smaller, less versatile smartphone, and once again manufacture demand for it. Partly through marketing, but also by artificially creating a need for them.
2. Smartwatches are ruining smartphones.
Phones are awfully big these days, aren’t they? The current flagship offerings from most major manufacturers range from merely unwieldy to something Andre the Giant would struggle to grasp comfortably.
Still couldn’t grip an iPhone 6.
Where has this trend come from? Not consumers. People aren’t saying “Hey, what I really want is a phone I can’t actually hold in my hand”. That would be stupid.
And the manufacturers themselves know they’re too big. Consider this – every handheld device* Apple made from the original iPod to the iPhone 5S was the same width, give or take just a couple of millimetres. This is because they know that’s what fits best in most people’s hands.
So why did they throw their own design principles out the window with their latest models?
To make the Watch appealing, of course.
Surely you didn’t think it was a coincidence that Apple phones stayed smaller than the competition for years – until the Watch was ready?
No, this is the plan, and it’s not just Apple that’s doing it. Make the phones annoyingly cumbersome so that you don’t want to use it so often, and plug the gap with a watch. Why sell people one device that meets all their needs when you can sell them two inadequate ones?
*Except the iPod Nano and Shuffle, but they were smaller, so the point stands.
3. Smartwatches annoy your friends.
For better or worse, we now live in a world where people fiddle with their phones all the time. Reading notifications, sending messages, even just checking the time. This can make smartphone users appear distracted, only half there. It’s a fairly new social phenomenon, and as a result, people are still somewhat flexible in how they react to such behaviour. Some find it rude, but most tolerate it to a degree, because we all do it sometimes.
But do you know what’s a guaranteed way to make your companions think you would rather be somewhere else?
Looking at your watch.
Yes, well done, Apple et al. Your masterplan to liberate us from constantly fiddling with our phones is to replace it with a gesture which tells everybody in the room you’re bored out of your mind.
They should have realised this very early on in testing. But Apple are so paranoid that they would never have allowed this product to be seen in public until it was launched, so they never got that really essential and frankly bloody obvious piece of user feedback until it was too late. In their delusion that they were reinventing the watch, they forgot to take into account that the world has several centuries of social conventions around watches which won’t easily be undone.
4. They’re shite.
I tried to find another way to put this, but there’s no beating around the bush – they aren’t good at anything. Not as a watch, not as a communication device, not as an information display, nothing.
Let’s take the most basic piece of functionality of a watch, telling the time. It can’t even do this effectively.
Yes, yes, the display switches on when you look at it, very clever. Except it doesn’t, does it? It switches on after a short delay because the processor’s been hobbled in the name of battery life. Thanks, Apple, I’ve always wanted a watch that won’t even tell me the time until it’s good and ready.
They seem to know that trying to get anything done by touching the screen is an exercise in futility, because you won’t be able to see what you’re tapping so their solution is to make the crown into a side-mounted scroll wheel. You know, just like the Sony J7 phone from 2001.
Apple innovating once again.
“Hey, you can talk into it like Dick Tracy!”
Yeah, great. It picks up every other voice in the room as well as yours, making conversations a garbled mess for the person on the other end, and Siri even more of a farce than usual. Phones at least know they’re going to be somewhere near your mouth when you’re talking and so can intelligently cancel out background noise. A smartwatch might be at your mouth, or at your keyboard, or under your coat.
Plus, talking into your watch makes you look like an arse.
So that leaves non-verbal communication. Surely it’s competent at that, at least?
No. Its main purpose seems to be to notify you of stuff that you can’t really do anything useful about, and so you end up getting your phone out anyway. Progress, eh?
For example, you can read texts, but you can’t reply to them because there’s no bloody keyboard. No, hang on, you can reply to them, but only by choosing one of a selection of canned responses it “intelligently” offers up based on what it’s gleaned from the content of the message. I think we all know how well that’s going to go.
Oh, and they’re charging people up to seventeen thousand dollars for a watch that can’t survive falling to the bottom of a swimming pool. Ideal for fitness training, indeed.
Please don’t buy one of these things, you’ll only encourage them. If you endorse this with your money, they will continue to produce cynical, pointless baubles which serve only to make devices we were already quite happy with less useful.