2014 could very well turn out to be the year of the smart watch, but a large consumer base would have to be convinced for that to happen. A company would have to be able to distinguish its smart watch capabilities from a smartphone capabilities to gain ground in a large consumer market and not be labeled as the new tech that techies love for the sake of it being new tech.
That bears the questions: What are smartphones not capable of? What would a watch be better tailored for to make it worth the cost and (potential) hassle of having to keep up with yet another device? What features does a smart watch need to make a buyer’s life more convenient?
Let’s start with the obvious. A smart watch has one distinct advantage over a smartphone – you can very easily keep it with you at all times, comfortably, regardless of your pocket situation or ability to carry things. This is the number one advantage smart watches have over smartphones, and it is what many of the features I’m going to recommend for the smart watch center around.
The fact that it is easy to keep a smart watch with you makes one feature an instant seller: a hotspot. Include hotspot capabilities in the watch that can be turned on by the flip (or swipe) of a switch and boom…consumers have instant Internet access. It would be like having your own personal Internet bubble…on your wrist..
Another feature all smartwatches should have (and the few that exist now do) is a fitness tracker. The device could automatically count your steps and find your heart rate based on blood flow in the wrist. Sleep time could be measured the same way as well as any other easily-measured stats. This information could be presented to you daily in the form of a simple chart or graph that is linked to your other devices for review whenever it is convenient for you.
A convenient way to wirelessly listen to music through ear buds is yet another feature I’d like to see smart watches have, and really every smart device.. But this makes the most sense with a smart watch because, if you have to plug in headphones to a device on your wrist, the cord will be constantly in the way while exercising or working. Cases could even come with a slot on the underside for a place to put the buds when not in use.
Finally, a feature that I think would be absolutely necessary for a smart watch to have is location-based home screens. I don’t want to have to go searching for specific apps on such a small screen; I want the device to know which apps I am most likely to use based on whether I am at home, work or driving. Even if I am traveling, it should know. This way, when I am in traffic, I could look down at my watch and Waze and Google Maps would be ready, waiting to be accessed, but when I got home, I wouldn’t have to swipe them away to search for my Twitter feed or access Evernote.
The smart watch market is due to explode over the next 12 months, and with all the possibilities, it should have no problem doing so. However, the consumer will have to be convinced that it is worth their time and money to add yet another smart device to their collection.
Shortlist of extra features
-Location based suggestions (attached to Foursquare and Yelp?)
-Everything be voice capable
-(Future) Project Tango