Wednesday, July 1, 2015

So What's up With the Smartwatches?

You may have seen a smartwatch by now. Major tech companies like Apple, Samsung, and Motorola have all started to produce these devices, and they are set to become the next big gadget in the public eye. Other than being hip, what do they really bring to the table? Is it worth looking like you have a Casio calculator strapped to your wrist? Is a smartwatch right for you?

Advertisements will show off all the fancy voice controls and heartbeat sensors in their shiny new device, but the fact is that a smartwatch isn’t much use if it doesn’t work well as a watch. So does it operate fine as a watch? Yes, they keep time, but that’s easy. They have well-lit digital screens, like a phone or tablet,that can easily be read in any light - but remain completely dim when you’re not using them. The usual timekeeping conveniences found in digital watches are all there: timer, stopwatch, and 
alarm functions are all built-in, and without the confusing button schemes of old digital watches. Everything uses 
the touchscreen, and so is simple and easy to use. A full calendar view is available, even. It can be very handy to have so many of your daily reminders and schedules strapped to your wrist, instead of on a tablet, or written down somewhere.

Smartwatches aren’t just fancy watches, though. They have a lot of functionalities that are unique for a wearable device, like making and receiving phone calls, texts, and emails. It’s not always easy to do these things on such a tiny screen, which is why most smartwatches are expected to be used as a companion device to your smartphone. Your phone will manage all of the data, and your watch acts as an accessory to it - like another screen. Even if you can’t see yourself pecking away at a tiny screen to send a text, everyone can think of a time that they’d rather check their wrist to see who’s calling (and even silence the call) rather than fumble with their phone. Newer models will allow you to take the call from your watch, and hear and speak to the other caller through the watch.

So what’s the downside, other than looking straight out of Back to the Future? For one, these devices run on a rechargeable battery, and they use significantly more power than a standard watch, even a digital one. You’ll need to recharge your watch at least once a week, maybe more depending on the model. It’s a simple USB charger, likely the same one as your phone, so it’s not too much of a hassle, except for remembering to do it.  You’ll feel like a total goof if your watch battery dies partway through a day and you’re stuck with a useless brick on your wrist though, which is strong reinforcement. The watches also run on Bluetooth, which requires your phone’s Bluetooth to be active, which will drain the battery quicker. Lastly, some of them really don’t look great. Some are simply small tablets with a rubber strap attached. Some of the newer models have adopted round faces, and premium cloth or metal bands, although the screens still need to maintain their size to be usable, and they can dwarf smaller wrists.

All in all, smartwatches are very versatile devices that are still having the kinks ironed out - not in the technology, but in the concept. They work well, but aren’t always as good of a lifestyle device as something like a watch needs to be. There’s no doubt that we’ll all be babbling away into our wrist computers someday, but that day may not be here just yet. Unless you’re the kind of person who loves trying out new gadgets, this is one bandwagon you can probably avoid for a few more years. If you love testing new gizmos (and maybe being a bit of a guinea pig), and like the idea of everyone asking you if “that’s one of those new watchphones,” then a smartwatch just might be for you.