Tuesday, 17 February 2015

SmartWatch Evolution in Appearance - Not Purpose

It's always nice to be on the money, and thankfully, regarding smartwatches, I have been.

It wasn't long ago that I was writing about the central problem with the smartwatches on the market - was that, first and foremost, they had forgotten to be a watch. I used the first Samsung Galaxy Gear and, whilst enjoying the technology, just couldn't get past the central issue - I didn't really want it on my wrist. 

Let's be honest, the smartwatch is a novelty. It serves no important purpose. Yes, it makes checking notifications that tiny bit quicker, but making £150+ difference to a life? No chance. It's for the people with the disposable income, or want to be on the forefront of technology, or finally, for fashion. It's that last point which is where manufacturers have finally cottoned-on. Us tech geeks are not a mass-market. We're a cynical bunch who are rarely 'fashionistas' so we are able to look past the image, and more at what the thing can do.

So, using my unpenetrable testing criteria for the appearance of the watch, I tested out the Sony Smartwatch 2 through London. Overall, it's only a rare and investigative second-look look that claims the attention of the passer-by. For me, that's the way it should be. It should be a watch, first and foremost, with technology following. I chose the Sony Smartwatch 2 because it looked most like a watch, and not some space-age invention.

With the Moto 360 and Pebble Steel leading the way, manufacturers have caught up. LG G-Watch R followed, and now finally Samsung too, with the Gear S. Obviously, the iWatch too. These watches have stripped back the technology, and focused on design, with more subtle (and more practical) technology.

I use 1% of the Sony Smartwatch 2 capability on a day to day basis. The reviews are relatively useless when in practice, those features just don't step into everyday life. 

Nothing has changed since I first wrote about the Samsung Galaxy Gear in 2013. Back then I complimented the smartwatch on its appearance and functionality. I still defend that stance with my 2013 hat on - but really, the smartwatch should have come on a lot more since then.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Have we really reached a smartphone impasse?

It seems so.

For the first time in several years, smartphones stepped back from the frontline at CES and that's no surprise. Sure, many manufacturers are looking to MWC for smartphone announcements, but over the last two years, we've seen less and less revolutionary changes in smartphones, and more performance tweaks.


It's a boring phrase, but 2015 IS the year of the wearable tech. Perhaps not for consumers, but certainly for the top-tier manufacturers. The endless wearable uses were shown at CES, and its all focusing around the clamour for that first 'hit' in the wearables market. Of the glasses, watches and fitness bands, no-one has managed to truly capture the public's imagination.

So where does that leave smartphones? Well, the new kids on the block are catching the others but offering little new to market. Look at Xiaomi; impressive company, impressive growth, but are they changing the smartphone? No. They are offering available features in a different shell and at a more affordable price.
     And it's that last point which is important. The price of smartphones is being driven down and less margin available for manufacturers. Given the impasse, consumers are seeing less reason to upgrade on an annual basis, and even sticking with devices for 2-3 years. Smartphones are becoming less of the cash-cow they once were. The annual performance updates and optimisation are in place to save the manufacturer money, and maintain face within the saturated market.

MWC is coming up, and both Samsung and HTC have announced launch dates for their new devices. We expect to see the evolution of Samsung's Galaxy Edge, which is a nice idea, but not greeted with rapture by consumers so far, and HTC will be likely to finely tune the M8. We are confident in neither bringing a drastic update to the smartphone market, but the opportunity is there for a surprise. Let's wait to see about that impasse but the signs are there.

Chances are, we should ignore the HTC One M9, and Samsung Galaxy S6, as that impasse has been reached.