Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Little Friendly Advice to Smartwatch Creators

PocketNow has a wonderful piece out: One month with a Pebble. The article, as the headline suggests, covers one reviewer's take on smart watches after having had one for a month. I got Shira a Pebble for her birthday, so she's had it for a little longer than a month. Her take on it goes like this:

When I'm wearing it, I love it.

OK, Smartphone watch creators, pay attention. That pithy little statement has a lot going on. Let's unpack it together.

First, a bit of good news: She likes the notifications capability of the Pebble. I keep nagging her to find more and more clever uses for the watch. Wouldn't it be cool if you could send a recipe to it, and then when cooking, the instructions would literately be at hand? No, that's a terrible idea, she informs me because your hands get messy while cooking and you wouldn't want to be fiddling with watch buttons. Or how about sending our shopping list to it, and as you walk through the isles, you can check off the items and see what's next? She then reminds me that she doesn't use shopping lists. I plead with her, at least let me setup PebbleTasker so we can program the buttons to do interesting stuff. At this point, she reminds me that it's her Pebble and to keep my hands off of it. For her, the notifications really are the killer app and making wearing the watch worth it. If her phone is buried in her purse and a call comes in, and she can glance at her wrist to see if she needs to bother digging it out, that's a huge win.

Now, the bad news: She's not always wearing it. There are two main reasons behind this: first, the watch is just plain bulky. There are times when fashion or function make wearing the watch an impossibility. The other reason: the watch isn't a true essential. If She's downstairs and the watch is upstairs, she's not going to bother retrieving it. After all, the watch just reports what's on the phone. The phone is the true required item here, not the watch.

Get all that watch makers? You're on to something and the product does work. But, and you know this already, it's needs to be about 10x smaller and a lot more fashion friendly. See this Wired article on the topic, as it explains this challenge well. As for making the watch essential? I'm not entirely sure that's necessary to do. But, if you want it to be, you've got to pack some additional sensors in there to start reporting information that the phone doesn't already have.

There, you're welcome.

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