While many are envisioning Dick Tracy and video chat on the wrist, it doesn’t sound like that’s what the focus of these initial devices will be. And I’m not sure that very many people want the Dick Tracy watch today, anyway.
Fifty years ago, when people thought about mobile devices, they naturally assigned these capabilities to things we already had on our person - a watch, or, in the case of Maxwell Smart, a shoe. Today, we all have powerful communications devices in our pockets, so moving it to our wrist is not that exciting.
And that’s one of the challenges in terms of a smartwatch. What should it be? Is it simply a remote control to access data on your phone, tablet or computer? And will that be enough to become a mainstream “must-have” product?
The core functionality that everyone seems to be focusing on is health and fitness. And there’s definitely an audience for that. Despite the fact that I’ve stopped wearing a watch, I wear my Fitbit 24/7. One good thing about the Fitbit is its low profile. I can work out with it, shower and even leave it on while sleeping (it monitors my sleep). But a big, bulky smartwatch will be cumbersome and I’m not sure it will fit the Fitbit/Fuelband niche.
The other obvious function for a smartwatch is communications. And while Dick Tracy and the Jetsons envisioned videophones as the killer apps of the future, that’s not how people choose to communicate. My teen daughter and her friends use a lot less Facetime and Skype these days, spending most of their time texting. And while receiving texts on your wrist may be compelling for some, sending texts requires a decent typing platform and I’m not sure that a watch interface will lend itself to that.
That’s not to say that there’s not a place for smartwatches. It’s early days for Fitbit and Nike Fuelband and entries from Samsung, Apple, Google and others can certainly expand that market. And certain niche segments may want a texting watch or a wrist-based television remote. But none of these are true killer apps in my opinion.
Dick Tracy doesn’t do it for me. But if you want to get me excited, how about a built-in jetpack? Now that would be a killer smartwatch.