| Jan Ungruhe |
Berlin (dpa) – After the first iPhone hit the market in 2007, it wasn’t long before smartphones were everywhere. Less than a decade later, they’re no longer a trend, just a part of everyday life.
Does the same bright future await the smart watch? Experts say there’s a good chance it does, once the engineers overcome a few problems with the devices, such as their short battery lives.
“Smart watches will become common in the medium term and eventually be pretty everyday, just like smartphones and tablet computers,” says Timm Hoffmann of the German IT industry association Bitkom.
One thing smart watches have got going for them from the industry point of view is that having them in the stores will prompt shoppers to spend even more money, since the watches don’t replace smartphones.
“Manufacturers wouldn’t have any interest in just replacing one device with another,” explains Nico Jurran, an editor at German computer magazine c’t. Replacement devices are costly to develop, but do not boost overall sales, so the industry would not be any better off.
Instead, the smart watch is going to be used as a phone’s secondary display.
Jurran says many users will come to enjoy the advantage of having a second screen on their wrist, which means they won’t have to fish their phone out of their pocket or bag all the time to look at it.
“Think about a meeting, where a quick glance at your wrist to read an incoming message will annoy other people much less than lifting up your smartphone to check it,” says Hoffmann.
A wrist display could also be a boost to mobile navigation.
“Looking at a smart watch, which will have a simple arrow pointing left or right, is a lot easier than reading off a smartphone,” he says.
Current smart watches still tend to fall short in their second-display role.
The main problem is that a lot of manufacturers haven’t come up with a way to ensure decent battery life. After all, it’s hard to fit a big battery into such a small case.
“The battery is the biggest problem,” agrees Jurran. “After all, the watch is supposed to be sleek.”
Manufacturers are wary of creating something that will be seen as clunky, whereas users get exasperated at a watch with limited battery life even faster than they lose patience with a mobile phone that is issuing warnings as its last charge expires.
That problem means smartphones remain a niche market for now.
However, sports watches have become common among a lot of amateur and professional athletes.
They already provide a lot of the services envisioned for smart watches.
“But I don’t have the option to interact with a sports watch,” notes Ingo Froboese of the German Sports University of Cologne.
Sports watches can include features like telling time, registering run times and distances, checking calories burned, navigation, pulse sensors and monitoring and timers for runs and breaks.
But it can be counterproductive to have too many options on them, warns Froboese.
“Anyone who is seriously into sports is better off with a sports watch than a smart watch,” says Jurran, since smart watches will really only work in conjunction with a smartphone – a drawback for athletes who don’t want to lug two devices about with them.
“There’s often a sports mode, but it’s usually poorly implemented,” says Jurran.
Anyone who desperately wants a smart watch instead of a sports watch, but still wants digital support during a workout, should also consider picking up a fitness armband to complement the watch.