Smart watches are definitely coming, specially with the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung all working on their own models. Here at OxGadgets we did a quick survey about how we feel what the future should hold for us. In part 1 we discussed how we feel about the idea of these watches. Here we discuss the features and functionality in a bit more detail:
Would you like them to be able to function without a phone as well (as in totally independent):
Sami: If they don’t, then they are not fulfilling their main purpose.
Amanda: Assuming I had one, absolutely.
Jonny: This, for me, is a no go. No-one will actually want to talk into their wrists and look like idiotic secret agents walking down the street. It has to connect to a phone to provide a quick glance access to notifications and maybe even cut down versions of some apps. Plus the manufacturers don’t want to release a product that will eat away at the sales of their other products – so having a device that requires you to have another device makes more sense for them too. In addition, full phone functionality would lead to DREADFUL battery life, so this would make no sense whatsoever.
Geoff: It would be good if it could retain some basic functions without requiring a phone, but if it could tap into the greater computing power of your phone when they are near each other, which for most people, most of the time, they will be, that would enable the size to be kept down.
Conclusion: Another bunch of mixed feelings. It needs to have some functionality without a phone, such as time, etc, but most of us think it will probably need to pair with a phone to gain more computing power.
Sami: The market has been moving in two directions. The year battery life with less functionality and the two week battery life with more functionality. Sadly this will have to be a trade off between the two, but personally I rather have the year long battery life with less functionality.
Jonny: Here I think there are going to be two scenarios: what we would like, and what we realistically are going to get. I think in an ideal world, we would want to get at least a good two weeks between charges. Our bedside tables (or mine at least) is already chock-a-block with devices that have to charge overnight, and there simply isn’t room for more!
Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening, and realistically I think we may end up with a device that manages a couple of days, maybe three or four at a push, between charging. If its a device that needs charging every day, I don’t think consumers would be happy with that and I don’t think the device would sell well.
Geoff: Generally predicted to be 1-2 weeks, or 1-2 years based on technology.
If it could somehow charge wirelessly, e.g. from your phone while your phone was also charging, that would be very cool.
Lottie: The only reason battery life would last a few years is coz a) people wont use it but want to be seen to have one & b) who wants to charge their watch?!
Conclusion: This is a clear one. We want more. We know we will have to sacrifice functionality if we get more.
Sami: It can in no way exceed the normal size of watches out there.
Amanda: Having very small wrists, I would like it to not look like I have an iPod strapped to my wrist. The more compact and wrist hugging the better.
Jonny: Size is a tricky one. I actually think having two types would be good. A bit like having larger men’s watches and smaller ladies’ watches. That way people wouldn’t be too forced into having to go with a size that they aren’t very comfortable with. The larger would obviously probably be able to have more functionality, but at least those people with small wrists would have an option too (even if they do lose a bit of functionality).
Geoff: Some of the specialised running watches, like the forerunner 205 that my wife has, are inelegantly massive. She wouldn’t wear anything like that day-to-day, though I might. The slimmer a watch is, hugging the skin, maybe the less its width would notice and so the wider it can be?
Conclusion: If it has to be your everyday daily watch, like your smart phone, it needs to be a reasonable size, much like most watches. Maybe a two size design might work, where you offer a trade off.
Screen – Size, touch ability, feedback, technology?
Sami: Screen can be quite a multi-dimensional feature on these. It could be a watch with a tiny section for notifications and text, or it could be a full screen which also is the watch. E-Paper seems to be the way to go, as it is less battery consuming. Obviously the more it tells you the better, which means a better technology and display. I have never used a touch screen watch so unsure how good it is.
Amanda: Screen size could be a bit of an issue for me – because although I want something compact, if I also want to be able to see the screen. Touch screen for sure (not sure how that would work with my analogue hands preference though), and it would have to be sweat and water proof.
Jonny: An OLED screen would, of course, be ideal, but it may sacrifice battery life. On the other end of the spectrum, the e-ink screen would give great battery life, but you lose out on good quality. I personally think that manufacturers will decide to sacrifice a bit of battery life and go with the better quality OLED/LCD option. It is much more appealing to consumers, and it will tie in better with their current OS’s user interfaces. Touch screen functionality is a must, but some additional hardware buttons on the side would be useful too.
Geoff: The interface is an issue, relating to the size of the screen, which a Siri-like voice-driven interaction would to some degree solve. Maybe like the previous generation iPod nano, we could pre-set a variety of home screens, each with a different display, and then the only issue would be switching between them.
Conclusion: Screen size small. Needs to tell us as much as possible. Probably the iPod nano kind of display might be what we will see in the future. However, this is something that will need to pass the test of time and consumers, and I am sure this will change a lot in the first few months or even years.
Technology built in?
Sami: Waterproof is a must. Bluetooth 4 for better battery life. Ideally GPS, accelerometer and such like so it can act as a Sports Watch and GPS watch as well as a handy watch for travellers, climbers, and such like. A good API for developers.
GPS unlikely – too draining on battery life, and can get location from connected phone anyways
Altimeter – definitely, as this is something that most phones lack at present.
Low-power Bluetooth 4 (or BLE) connectivity – definitely
Water resistance – yes (full water proofing unlikely, but possibly in some specialist brands)
Voice command microphone (eg for Siri functionality with iPhone)
Decent APIs that app developers can use to bring functionality for their apps to the watch
Conclusion: We want them to be very close to our smart phones, in fact more than them in some cases. Because watches do some stuff way more than smart phones do.
What about the ability to have a normal watch?
Sami: This is where I quite like what Casio have done as well as the Cuckoo watch. It is a normal watch with extra features.
Amanda: I personally would like analogue hands and the look of an actual watch, (though maybe not taking up the entire watch face, just the top two thirds) but then get a line of text if I have any messages/calls/alerts.
Jonny: Companies will hopefully work hard on producing a wide variety of good quality watch “faces” and also a number of different strap/bracelet options. I don’t see how (or why) anyone would want to wear a smart watch AND a normal watch. Users will have to sacrifice wearing their usual watches, and the tech companies might struggle to force users to do this beyond the honeymoon period of a new device launching… This could be a major barrier that they come up against.
Geoff: Oh, yes, if you mean to display time, date, etc. If it doesn’t have that function, it would be terribly frustrating, but that would be just a small part of the package, and in the “home” screen, time and date might only occupy a segment of the display, depending on size.
Conclusion: We are all orthodox when it comes to having a watch, so yes, we want it to look and feel like a watch, and read like a watch.
Thoughts about what already exists in the market?
Sami: Pebble are a clear winner here, with their Kickstarter campaign. However, not many people on the streets seem to be wearing many smart watches. Sony have had one for ages, Casio have one which only works on iPhones, and then there is the likes of Cuckoo. All in all, good competition, but nothing that has made me spend the money yet.
Amanda: I haven’t really looked in depth.
Jonny: I only really know about two main devices that are already out there:
Pebble – lacks functionality, and they have pissed off lots of people with their large delays in getting the device to the market. Needs to be more closely tied in to the phone’s operating system and needs decent APIs. E-ink screen is a limitation.
Sony’s smart watch – looks sexy, but the screen is too small and it is way too thick. No idea about functionality as not played one.
Geoff: Have heard discussions of the Pebble and meta watchmen but have no experience.
Conclusion: Curiosity about what exists, but not much experience. This will probably change very soon as watches like Pebble start to be seen in the market.
Sami: I’d put it somewhere between a hundred to 200. Having said that, you can get a fairly decent phone for that much.
Amanda: Depends on all the bells and whistles, but I would not want to pay more than £150.
Jonny: Another tough one. I would probably be happy to spend up to about £200 on a decent smart watch. I doubt I would want a watch if it cost less than £80 as it is unlikely to be any good. Maybe £80-100 for a small one, and then £150-180 for the larger more functional one.
Anything more than £200 and I think people would struggle to justify buying one.
Geoff: Would depend on functionality.
Conclusion: Probably under 200, but it all matters on what we get.