Sunday, 17 February 2013

The SmartWatch Race: Can Samsung and the Apple iWatch make it a mass-consumer device?

First there was the kickstarter-inspired Pebble, then Sony jumped ahead of the still rumoured Apple iWatch with an Android-powered Smartwatch and now it looks like Samsung don't want to miss out on all the fun.

As the 'Smartwatch' is still a fairly unknown entity here's a brief overview of what is out on the market:

The Pebble

This Kickstarter project currently owns the market - but hasn't managed to create the SmartWatch into a mass-consumer product. It all started with the "inPulse" - a device that tried to use BlackBerry OS, and never really took off. The follow-up is a far more professional device called the Pebble. Importantly, the Pebble doesn't try and take over from your phone, it simply couldn't do that - instead, it is an extension of your phone, so you don't have to get it out whenever it's needed. Lazy - probably, but that's the world we live in!

The Pebble is sleek to your wrist and most won't be able to tell that it is a Pebble unless you tell them. The screen is a disappointingly low-res, black and white LCD, and this is probably it's biggest weakness. It has good battery life (reported one week) and once set up works well with either iOS or Android. It will notify you when you get tweets, calls, texts, emails etc and this is a really nice thing to have. You can also control your music via the watch, all via a Bluetooth connection.

Sony SmartWatch

The other SmartWatch option is offered up by Sony. In essence it is similar to the Pebble but with a couple of nice extras. Firstly, a colour screen. Simple, but gives the watch more of a 'Smart' feel. The screen quality is still poor however, and the Sony struggles a bit more because of it's touchscreen. Again, more Smart, but less clean. It still sends the same notifications over, calendar, tweets, Facebook, emails.

It still allows you to control calls and music but the Sony SmartWatch makes use of Android apps, that the Pebble simply doesn't. For example, there is a Google Maps app, which is a nice addition. There's a weather app, which I think is a little pointless - but there is the capability to run it which is the important factor. 

In my opinion the watch isn't as good looking as the Pebble but it's hardly disgusting - and wouldn't be a big ask to wear it around.

Both watches are available for around the $150 mark, which is a lot, when in essence it a simply a convenience device. However, competition from Samsung and Apple would drive this down and make it a more realistic purchase. It doesn't sound like Google will follow the trend - especially with Google Glass not being too far away from launch. They will be happy with the Android OS being used widely on SmartWatches. I would like to see a SmartWatch running Windows OS because it is an OS that transcends devices well. Interestingly, the leaked images of the Samsung SmartWatch look like the OS is following a Windows OS theme... We'll have to see.

Will I be buying a SmartWatch? Not quite yet, but I intend to do so when Samsung and Apple enter the fray - that is when the race really begins. I love how the important details are selected from your phone and sent to your watch. Without looking at your phone you are able to see who is calling, texting or emailing you. However, SmartWatches are simply an extension of your phone and take the little details from the notifications and put them onto your wrist, and $150 for convenience simply isn't worth it at the moment.

Thanks for reading, as always all thoughts are welcome. Will you look to buy a SmartWatch? Can they become more than just an extension of your phone? If you like what you read give me a follow in the top right, or have a look through my previous blogs if you need more convincing.

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