Wearables have really made a large splash in the mobile devices market in the past few years. Similar to how the smartphone and tablet market came to be, there are now a variety of platforms available including Pebble, Android Wear, WatchOS, and more. The main difference between smartphones & tablets in comparison with wearables is that wearables, with the exception of a select few, are very much companion devices. They rely heavily on their smartphone companions in order to keep all but the most basic functionality working. This lack of wearable independence is exactly why they’ve been called into question several times. Are wearables really useful? Are they here to stay? What can they do to help me get through the day?
I’m definitely a wearables fan, I use my Pebble Steel paired with my BlackBerry Passport for all my notifications and media control. Despite this fandom, I also call into question the future of wearables. If I leave the house without my phone, I go back and get it. If I leave the house without my Pebble, I leave it at home. I don’t really need my smartwatch, I just enjoy having it, and I’m not alone. Some of my friends have smartwatches of their own and they’ve made similar comments, with some completely ignoring their smartwatches altogether leaving them to collect dust on a shelf somewhere.
With that, let’s take a look at how wearables fall into our lives…
Are wearables really useful?
The initial vision behind wearables, in my opinion, was to prevent you from pulling out your phone for basic tasks such as: notifications, media control, and basic social media. Their functionality has definitely grown beyond this initial vision with new functionality such as navigation and voice dictation. All of these things are great to have on your wrist at all times. They allow for people to get glimpses of the information they need, while paying most of their attention to their surroundings. This quick access to information is a definite productivity booster, but might not work for everyone.
For instance, if you always have your phone out in front of you on your desk, then grabbing your phone might not be any quicker than checking your wrist. In this case, a smartwatch could actually cause distractions especially if you have your phone and computer setup to get notifications. You’d be receiving a notification on your wrist, your phone, your PC, and maybe even your tablet.
Are they here to stay?
In the earlier days of wearables, Pebble was basically the kingpin and was Kickstarted to success. At that point it seemed like wearables were a niche that would either go away eventually, or just be for a select few who enjoyed having them. However, now that the market has expanded to a massive scale in just a few short years, I’d say they’re here to stay. There are several generations of the same product now such as the Pebble Time devices, and this is a good indicator that they’ll be around for a while.
What can they do to help me get through the day?
Our smart devices all help us get through the day in one capacity or another. Whether you’re constantly managing a business through various apps, writing memos, or managing social media, your device keeps you in the know. With that, many people who are new to wearables will probably want to know how one will fit into their current digital lives. Due to the recent expansion of the wearables market, most wearables can tap into almost anything a smartphone can do in one capacity or another. Typically the functionality is a bit limited, but it is there and it’s getting better. If you’re a typical smartphone user then it’s probably safe to say that a wearable will compliment your current smartphone use. Since we’re getting new generations of existing devices, I would suggest getting a cheaper older generation device to see if you like it before investing some serious cash into a more modern one.
Overall, wearables are useful, fun to use devices that can help boost productivity. On the other hand they are expensive and depend on yet another expensive device, our smartphones. For these reasons, I can see the smartwatch market hitting a ‘growth wall’ much sooner than smartphones and tablets did. There are a lot of people out there that are utilitarian with their budgets and a fancy companion device probably doesn’t look as appealing as a brand new smartphone that works by itself. Only time will tell how the wearable market will look in the future, but I estimate that it is bright. When cellphones first came out many people stopped wearing traditional wristwatches because they always had the time with them, however, we never saw the wristwatch industry die out. With so many smart device fans out there, there are probably many great innovations to come.