Watch all the fuss about?

With a different smart watch being released each week, should you be investing in this wearable tech?

Read time 4min 40sec

The first timepieces to be worn on the body were introduced in the 16th century. They were several centimetres in diameter, only had an hour hand and were fastened to clothing or worn on a chain around the neck.

Years later, as people called for something less cumbersome, the timekeeping accessories transformed into compact pocket watches, which eventually morphed into the wristwatches many of us still wear today.

But today, the wristwatch is evolving even further.

According to analysts, smart watches are set to take the mobile device market by storm. Manufacturers promise this wearable tech will outdo the humble Swatch you got for your birthday as a child, essentially functioning as a miniature computer you can wear on your wrist.

In February, ABI Research forecast that 485 million wearable computing appliances will be shipped annually by 2015. While the research house did acknowledge that much of this can be attributed to sport/activity trackers, it noted that a new category of smartphone-compatible watches will be the driving force behind the market shake-up.

Personally, I stopped wearing a watch soon after I got a cellphone. I guess I no longer needed one, as my phone became a convenient means for me to keep track of the time. With the impending wearable wave, I have to wonder if I should consider revisiting this arm accessory.

But are these smart watches all they're trumped up to be?

Dumb watches?

At present, most of the smart watches on offer are marketed as companion accessories, meaning they function in conjunction with your existing smartphone and are not standalone gadgets. One must also note that most link to your phone via Bluetooth, making proximity an important element of the smart watch/smartphone functionality equation.

And it seems everyone is jumping on the wearable bandwagon. Just last week it was reported that the release of a Google smart watch may come sooner than anticipated. Adidas is set to unveil its wearable tech targeted at athletes, come November, and the verdict is still out as to when the world will get its first look at the eagerly anticipated Apple iWatch. Meanwhile, Nokia was recently awarded a patent for a wearable accessory featuring multiple linked touch-screens on a single wristband, with different apps running on each of the different screens, which sounds rather complicated, if you ask me.

Yes, this technology allows users to make calls, snap pictures and utilise various mobile apps from the comfort of their arm, but do people really need to be able to read an e-mail on their arm when their cellphone is just a few metres away? Has reaching into a pocket to retrieve a smartphone really become a chore? Gosh, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

When you consider that the average person checks their phone 110 times each day, and once every six seconds during peak hours, more often than not, we actually have our devices in our hands when we receive an SMS or e-mail. So, is it really necessary to have another channel between you and your phone?

Lazy time

Frankly, the whole thing reminds me of a scene from Pixar Animation Studios' 2008 film, Wall-e. It's a bit of a stretch, but bear with me here.

Has reaching into a pocket to retrieve a smartphone really become a chore?

Set several hundred years in the future, the human race has had to relocate to spaceship-based homes after successfully trashing our mother earth - which is a column for another day. To make the situation more woeful, mankind has descended into a group of super-obese couch potatoes who no longer do anything for themselves and spend their days floating around on mobile chairs, drinking liquefied food, because you know, chewing is far too tiresome.

No doubt an over-exaggeration, but if in 2013 devices are being created because reaching into your handbag for your phone is a hassle, in the next decade or two, what seemingly mundane tasks could cease to exist due to technological innovation? In a society that demands instant gratification with minimal effort, is it such a stretch to think the animated film's portrayal of the ineptitude of future generations could be more accurate than we would like to admit?

But don't get me wrong, some of these wearables have a whole lot of promise, and with a little refinement, could boast features that could take some of the 'real' complexity out of our day-to-day activities. However, with limited software and functionality, and a rather hefty price tag, I don't see this tech becoming a must-have just yet.

While I have no doubt the analysts are on the money in their predictions about an imminent wearable revolution, for now, I don't think smart watches are quite up to scratch. And in an ever-evolving mobile market where the competition to be first is fierce, the tech bigwigs are so focused on getting products to market that they are bombarding consumers with devices that seem almost incomplete.

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