Monday, September 9, 2013

Smart Watch Roundup and Some Thoughts

Boy there are a lot of smart watches and related connected devices finally coming out. No, I haven't used the majority of these. Partly as some are merely announced, and otherwise I mostly still have to buy my stuff instead of being cool enough to get things sent to me.

I have played with lots of other crazy devices over the years, and even some very old attempts to be smart watches so still claim to get the gist, though.

  • Samsung - It's practically a mini phone in itself, with the ability to install what seem to be fairly free-standing apps, a camera, voice input, and of course a fairly serious color touchscreen. 
  • Qualcomm - The Toq, which also seems to have an accompanying earpiece, uses a "new" display technology, and is trying to strike a more useful middle ground in the touchscreen control area, with much larger inputs. That might help, but it looks even huger than the others still. 
  • Sony - Rather similar in UI scale to the Qualcomm, if you are following links in order, and still too big a device. Proud of having gestures, like swipe to perform some actions. 
  • Smart Devices - Really not much about this, but it looks again to be a full color touchscreen with tediously tiny controls. 

Of course, most folks are comparing these to the Pebble. And not just the tech writers. Sales doubled on announcement of the Samsung device.

Despite my previous glowing review, it's not a perfect device. It's not ePaper despite their claims. I do wish it would shake to dismiss items, and was a little more clever about what it sent to the watch (most emails are useless, as the body is all this header info...), and i can just imagine having a few crazy features like a speakerphone so I can answer calls sometimes, but that is probably a step too far.

Overall, I have trouble like many commenters on why you'd want a smart watch, but only when I look at those with full color screens, touch targets that are far too small, and maybe as much as 1 day of battery life. Pebble, while in no way perfect, is the trend I still see winning, and maybe even the way these shiny, touchscreen watches will be used: as remotes for your mobile, pushing notices, giving almost-ambient information on weather and status and position and maybe even time. I don't see a lot of photos, note taking, voice response or gaming going on with your wrist.

Which brings me really to the last smart... thingy. Embrace + is a kickstarter I backed as I love, love, love the idea. It's a bracelet (okay, I won't wear it, but my wife might) that just glows and blinks. Truly ambient, very simple and unobtrusive, one-way only information.

Scott Jenson over the weekend said that "people are deconstructing the computer/phone into alternative configurations," which is a great way to say it. These device manufacturers are creating a new way for mobiles to work, and allowing customer choice again in an ocean of flat, fragile slabs of glass. But in a really interesting way, for the interactivity. You used to have the candybar vs. flip choice, with the rare pen/touch nerd, but now there is beginning to be the promise of making your mobile as intrusive, or not, as you want and as two way or not as you need at any moment.

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