Good Morning
Good Morning

Samsung, Sony smartwatch failures don’t spell doom for wearable tech

A man tries a Samsung Galaxy Gear, right,

A man tries a Samsung Galaxy Gear, right, next to his regular watch after a presentation. Samsung has unveiled a highly anticipated digital wristwatch well before a similar product expected from rival Apple. (Sept. 4, 2013) Credit: AP

Smartwatches have the tech world buzzing. These latest smart devices are worn on your wrist like any other watch, but they tell you more than just the date and time -- smartwatches can connect to the Internet and take pictures just like our smartphones. Tech companies have given us a glimpse of what the future of mobile computing could look like.

If the wristwatch isn't where you expected the next advancement in technology, consider the path we've been on. The popularity of mobile computing devices, such as phones and tablets, has led tech companies to pursue further mobility. The next logical move in that direction is hands-free.

But since the first batch of smartwatches launched in September, reviewers have had mixed opinions about these new gadgets. While it’s true that some watch models can sync to smartphones, send and receive email and text messages, and even make phone calls, the contention lies with what the watches can’t do -- at least not yet.

If tech companies worked on refining the features and specifications of their devices, the initial reception of smartwatches may have been better.

Many smartwatches can only sync with a handful of phones. For example, the Galaxy Gear smartwatch was only compatible with one Samsung phone when it debuted. The Sony SmartWatch can be paired with different Android phones via Bluetooth, but users need to install a proprietary app from Sony that manages all the settings for the watch. That’s a disappointing experience for consumers who expect plug-and-play devices; these smartwatches should be ready to use out of the box.

Another drawback of smartwatches is they lack compatibility with many third-party apps. Even the apps they do work with, such as Facebook and Twitter, don’t allow for complete integration. For example, a social network notification might appear on your watch, but you’ll need to reach for your phone or computer to see what you’ve missed. This is a critical design flaw that needs correction.

Part of the problem may just be that many smartwatch designers are so fixated on style that they neglect important, substantive features.

With rumors of Apple joining the fray with an ”iWatch," many have speculated that Apple will integrate video calling into smartwatches. FaceTime has been a mainstay of the company’s devices for quite some time, and the popularity of video calls is undeniable. Since apps like Skype are currently out of the picture, the ability to video chat could be the key to these devices gaining wider acceptance.

No smartwatch can yet cater to the many desires of consumers, but don’t let that overshadow the ingenuity of these devices. Making calls, receiving messages and recording video on a watch is such a step in the right direction; some smartwatches can even be used to track your health and vital statistics -- an important feature considering the growing popularity of personal health tracking.

Smartwatches could be the future of technology, and we’re getting closer to having these devices give The Jetsons a run for their money.

More news