Yes, I’ve been wearing a smartwatch around. No, it hasn’t changed my life. Yes, it’s neat and handy. No, it can’t really do much that your smartphone can’t. Should you buy one? Listen, we only just met, so I’m not sure I’m comfortable answering that question.
I will say, for the time being, that a smartwatch is a simple way to be momentarily popular. Check your tweets while seated next to strangers at a large Passover Seder, as I did recently, and someone will invariably engage you in conversation.
Them: “Ooh, is that the new Apple thing?”
Me: “It’s not. But it’s similar.”
Them: [Now audibly disappointed] “So, why should I get get one?”
It’s a familiar exchange. My interactions around smartwatches have fallen into one of two categories: those who just can’t be bothered with the things, and those who, like my aforementioned Seder buddy, are curious enough about the media hype so as to want to be convinced.
No one has convinced me that I can’t live without the thing.
There’s not really lot to say about the former. They’re the folks, bless ‘em, who seriously considered raising their hands to take the “I Will Not Have Sex With Anyone Who Wears an Apple Watch” Gawker pledge. More power to them. Listen, I’ve have long-term, spiritually fulfilling relationships with women who like Dave Matthews Band — I certainly wouldn’t let a thing like someone’s wrist ornamentation get in the way of something beautiful.
On the other side of the divide are those tuned into the buzz, but unaware of the details. Companies are excited, tech reporters are excited and the news anchors certainly seem excited. And here they are, sitting next to a real-life person with a real-life smartwatch! Granted, it’s no Apple thing, but it’ll do in a pinch.
This brings us back around to where we left off with that conversation: Why should they get one? Even as a tech reporter who has spent a few weeks wearing one of the damn things on my wrist, it’s a toughie. The simple answer is that, at the very least, it’ll give you something to discuss with perfect strangers at Passover Seders. But if that’s all you’re looking for, you could save a lot of money in the long run with a simple face tattoo.
You can show off the features, one by one, with upward swipes. Behold, a new email! Look, my recent Twitter interactions! Hey, it’s 39-degrees outside! Will this winter never end? Oh, apparently I took 23,000 steps today! Time to reward all of that hard work with a couple of slices of gefilte fish.
I’ve yet to convince anyone to run home to buy one. I confess that I’m not a great sales person. But more to point, I confess that even after spending time with a smartwatch that I actually quite like, I’m still not entirely convinced myself.
Thing is, there’s one key thing that unites the Gawker smartwatch abstinence pledgers and the curious (but unconvinced) Seder attendees. That’s the fact that no one has managed to make the smartwatch feel necessary. In the last few years of reading about, writing about and trying on smartwatches, no one has convinced me that I can’t live without the thing.
We leave our phones at work on a Friday night and we’re bumbling morons for the rest of the weekend.
That’s normal for a new technology. It may seem unfathomable, but homosapiens got around reasonably well for a couple hundred thousand years before Apple decided it would be a good idea to get into the phone game. But look at us now. We leave our phones at work on a Friday night and we’re bumbling morons for the rest of the weekend.
But smartwatches have a tougher row to hoe. Hey, remember that first bit of technology you didn’t realize you needed in your life until a few years ago that you now can’t live without? Yeah, well, here’s a new piece of technology that requires that other piece of technology in order to lesson your reliance on it, because you’ve been using it entirely too much and it’s beginning to disrupt your social life.
Seems like an easy enough sell, right?
The reason companies, reviewers and everyone else are having trouble convincing people that they need smartwatches is that they’re not convinced themselves.
It’s caused me to rethink the whole conversation. Go ahead, ask me if you need a smartwatch.
Oh, well thanks for asking. Of course you don’t need a smartwatch, but right now it’s a pretty neat thing that will get people’s attention, all while making your life incrementally better, reversing among other things, the slight damage the company’s older products have done to your ability to socialize.
Over time, the watches will improve both from a hardware standpoint and, more importantly, from third-party software developers who will eventually hit upon that elusive “killer app” — or, perhaps even multiple killer apps.
By that point, the watch will have become such an integral part of your routine that anyone without might as well be one of those chimps at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey for all that they’re contributing to the world.
What do you think? Too blunt? Don’t worry, I’ll have the whole thing ironed out by next Passover.