Smartwatches for all?

Will everyone be wearing smartwatches in the future?


It’s just a little difficult to see it from where we stand right now. The process will be slow, and driven as ever by early adopters and techie-geeks. If we look back at smartphones, it took somewhere in the region of a decade before they became widely accepted.

But it does appear that we are approaching something of a “tipping point”, where the burgeoning interest in smartwatches will fuel further interest, until there is a quiet acceptance of their right to a place in society.

Already we have TV ads, features in glossy magazines and broadsheets. Even catwalk processions. There is an unmistakable buzz around this new fad. It’s very reminiscent of other technologies which have now become mundane – smartphones, tablet PCs, the Internet.

And this is even before the irrepressible Apple has actually entered the arena, with its Midas touch on all things technological. The already palpable anticipation points to it bringing smartwatches to the masses in much the same way as it had done with the desktop computer, the humble MP3 player, and tablet PCs.

So the next question is, will 2015 finally be the year of the smartwatch?

Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not.

There are typically two types of people who will potentially buy into this technology. Those who already wear watches, so would not need to be convinced of the medium. And those who do not wear watches, but have the need to be hard-wired to their device, constantly connected to their contacts and information.

For the former, whichever way you look at it, the digital versions will always come a rather poor second to the fine, crafted timepieces to which they are accustomed. No smartwatch will ever be able to compare with a Rolex, a Tag Heuer, or a Patek Philippe in terms of sheer quality and beauty of engineering (although downloadable watchface-design rip-offs are certainly giving traditional watchmakers cause for consternation).

And as for the latter group, smartwatches are still a work-in-progress, ‘production beta-versions’ if you will, with some way yet to go. There are still issues with reliability, functionality and usefulness. Until these are resolved, until notifications and calls are not missed through dropped connections, voice commands are instantly and perfectly interpreted, and until the battery manages to last longer than just a day, this market segment will not come on board completely. That is not to say smartwatches haven’t come a long way in their five-plus year history, but there is some way to go before they are to become an unnoticed yet indispensable part of our personal inventory.

There are, however, a few promising glimpses of what may come, such as the undeniably exquisite Kairos mechanical smartwatch which wouldn’t look out of place in any horological aficionado’s collection.

Some further development of the interface is also required, along with improved short-range connection technology such as NFC and improved battery life. This should then bring us some way towards the point where using a smartwatch will become second-nature to us.