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Smart Watches can Deliver on their Potential- A Hype or Truth

It all started in 2003 when Microsoft decided to bring internet to the wrist watch using its Smart Personal Objects Technology by partnering with watchmakers such as Citizen, Fossil and Suunto. The wrist watch provided weather, traffic and stock information. However, the product did not work and Microsoft had to stall its plans of launching Smart watches.

The hype around the smart watch, a device that interacts with the wearer’s smartphone to display text messages or emails, started building since 2012. Capitalizing on the hype,  dozens of product choices in the smart watch segment  have been knocking the market for the last few months now.  Samsung launched its Galaxy gear in 2013 that can interact with other smartphones and tablets. With a quick look at the wrist, emails and messages can be checked using Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. Further,  pictures can be clicked with the smart watch’s inbuilt camera without having to search for a smartphone. With the launch of the Galaxy gear, Samsung has demonstrated how smart watch technology can be effectively married into the lifestyles of potential consumers. Consequently, other firms are now keen to capitalize on the opportunity to make consumer’s lifestyles more convenient with a new range of wearable devices.

Leading electronics firms such as LG, Sony and Motorola have already come up with their smart watches. Further, Apple’s smart watch is in the pipeline and is slated for a release soon. Despite the foray of leading technology giants in the smart watch space, the market is still remains at an infant stage and there is no smart watch that truly stands above the rest. It appears that in their race to get a product to the market first, wearable computing manufacturers have besieged consumers with mostly incompetent product offerings.  Almost all smart watches released previously have lacked either with regards to design, features or battery life. Nevertheless, signs of improvement in product technology are visible with Samsung, LG and Sony coming up with updated versions of their previously released products.

Most of the products available in the market offer smartphone-style information and notifications in a limited form factor. As the display for text messages, emails and other notifications cannot wrap fully around the wrist, what can actually be delivered by the smaller, rigid screens available is limited. Moreover, a watch is considered more of a fashion statement than a tech gadget.  Hence, Smart watches need to have more appealing product designs.

Generally, technology oriented companies place more focus on the technology involved. However, in a bid to match up to the expectations of the target consumers, both product design and product functionality need to be given equal importance. With recent launches by companies like Samsung, LG and Motorola, the smart watch industry seems to have found some base as the smart watches from these companies have now been launched in different design configurations such as round casing, square casing and wristband styles.

Smart watches may be the most hyped product at present in the electronic wearable industry. However, the current smart watches available in the market are rather bulky and are not yet able to draw on the unique properties that wearable electronics offer. People would rather carry a smartphone in their pocket and glance at it to see the time than wear a smart watch on their wrist. Moreover, a smartphone is capable of functioning as a timer, an alarm, a stop watch, a camera, a social media portal and most obviously as a telephone. Therefore, a watch needs to do more than just aping the features of a smart phone. It needs to offer convenience and it needs to be a multifunctional gadget that will appeal to the consumer.

This Blog is written by Anand Shanker, Sr Analyst with DART Consulting