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Smartwatches: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

Just as we’d got used to second screen viewing comes a third screen, the Smartwatch, which might be the next big thing. It’s a kind of add-on to a smartphone to allow unobtrusive monitoring – and perhaps avoid the kind of situation described here.

However to make it work, clear decisions are necessary by product managers about what NOT to do – perhaps the true art of product management. The screen is 25mmx25mm (1”x1”) or so – crowding it with too many apps would make finding the right one a chore. Few are suited to a 300×300 or so pixel size either. Viewing text messages, simple controls, sports monitoring are fine; web pages or email is not. Writing a text message would seem pretty borderline. New apps are bound to evolve – simple turn signal arrows for navigation for example. There are also some things that should never be in a smartwatch – a headphone jack being one. If you want a wireless experience, do it properly with wireless headphones and not a cable running up your sleeve. Similarly, you would need to dictate a text message as the smartwatch would be too tricky to use as a keyboard…T9 texting anyone? All in all, I can think of definable situations where I would want a smartwatch for limited, unobtrusive information, and many others where it simply adds to distraction and ‘noise’.

The one exception that does occur is the growth of phablets  – supersized smartphones which are too large to hold comfortably. If the market does stabilize in favor of such devices, then a Smartwatch may be the only way to walk and make a call comfortably.

  • John Conor Ryan

    A smartwatch (or display on other wearables, like Google Glass) is hardly a 3rd screen: TV, PC or tablet, mobile phone = 3 / person. The wearable, surely, is the 4th, or perhaps 5th?