So there is a treasure trove of Apple Watch reviews making the rounds right about now. While reading them, you can’t get away from the idea that quite a few are still unconvinced that the smartwatch is worth investing in. And that’s probably because the smartwatch hasn’t really been able to convince the masses that it is doing something a regular smartphone can’t do.
Instead of saying what everyone else is saying, we’re taking the opportunity in this post, to take a step back, and take a stab at defining what the smartwatch is meant to do.
Yes, we’re going to figure out the smartwatch.
Figuring out the smartwatch
In order to do that, we need to first look at the way we use desktop and mobile devices. To oversimplify things, you create on the desktop but consume on the tablet and smartphone: you don’t build websites or write novels on your smartphone, no matter how good the technology is; technically, you can – but it just isn’t really the ideal setting to do so.
You can do more, intuitively, quickly and more easily on the desktop than on your smaller screen smartphone. When it comes to the smartphone, it is much lighter than any laptop, it fits right in your pocket, and it can go where you go – making it perfect for friends and family to reach you either over the phone or via the Web.
With this in mind, all we need to do is figure out what advantage the smartwatch has over smartphones and desktops.
Here’s a quick list of advantages and disadvantages:
- Mobility: It is on your wrist, it moves with you.
- Always on you: Strap it on and it becomes a part of you – you don’t even need pockets for it.
- Connectivity: You tell time with a watch, you stay connected with a smartwatch.
- Control center: You have a freaking computer your wrist, it is meant to compute something.
- Focus on the data: It no longer matters how my email looks, what matters is what the email is about.
- Small screen: Squinting to read emails isn’t a good look, geek or no geek.
- Battery life: Less space; smaller battery; less power.
The Smartwatch you deserve
So now that we are on the same page, let’s look at a feature wishlist for a smartwatch we all deserve. Ideally, the smartwatch should be able to:
1. Find my phone, keys and car
If you’re like me, you can’t seem to find your phone 50% of the time. What better way to locate your phone quickly, than to tap on your smartwatch and trigger your phone to ring. Also a great thing to have if you lose your phone a lot – maybe now, you won’t. The same logic applies to keys around the house and in the office.
And since we’re already talking about locating things, it would be nice to have smartwatch that can help me locate where my car is parked.
If I’m inside a shopping mall, instructions to where I can find a machine or a counter to pay for my parking fees would be great too. Better yet, maybe this is the solution we need to all our “find a parking spot” woes.
2. Be A Smart Compass
I’d like a smartwatch that is a compass, only it will be a smart compass that wouldn’t just help me find North. I’d like to find the way to my car, the way to a good coffee shop, the way to the hotel in the town I am visiting etc
It would be nice to be able to receive directions without looking at the watch though – be it by taptic feedback when walking, or GPS navigational voices when driving. I’d never lose my way again.
3. Play music
There are still a few places where music is out of reach, but the list is dwindling fast. You can now even listening to your favorite tunes while swimming (yes, underwater) with Neptune.
On another note, if you’re in the shower, you won’t be looking at any screens or feeling your way on the touchscreen with soap in your eyes. That’s where gesture control would be a fun feature to have. Let song lovers skip a song with just a simple shake of the wrist, and voilà, instant hit with the karaoke and “singing in the shower” crowd.
4. Allow Gesture Control
While we’re on the subject, let’s make that smartwatch the command center for your smart home. It’s always strapped on anyways, so you might as well use the smartwatch’s built-in gesture control to flick through your channels on your smart TV with your hand, or tweak the thermostat, lights, fans and other appliances with one gesture or another, like a wizard.
Internet of things, anyone?
5. Allow Verbal Commands
Look, the touchscreen is an advantage on a smartphone or a tablet but with a smartwatch the size of half a credit card, face it, it’s a limitation.
Let us dictate messages, emails and statuses to the smartwatch, or verbally make appointments that get added to the calendar automatically. I’m sure many would appreciate being able to actually record mental notes on the fly with voice commands like “Note to Self”.
6. Track A Child’s Location
Give me a smartwatch with a GPS module that will allow me to track the whereabouts of my kids, and I am sold. There are already plenty of safe watches like this out there already, so we know that this is doable.
To add to the idea, I’d go for a pair of parent-child smartwatches, with a feature that I know many parents would love. When enabled or activated, this smartwatch combo will inform me when my child has wandered off a bit too far while in a crowded area. It is like a wireless, less controversial, invisible version of the “safety harnesses/leashes” some kids are walking around in.
7. Be A Safety line for the elderly
While we’re on the subject, let’s bring this tracking capability to patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, who might wander off and not be able to remember how to get back. A tracking module will help their family or caretaker find where they are fairly quickly to avoid unwanted incidents.
The smartwatch can double as a notification center for medication management: a reminder module to take which meds at which times, and to remind the patient when to stock up on their prescription (figuring out when the supply will run out before it actually does).
Lastly, the ability to trigger an emergency alert straight from a smartwatch which is on your wrist – instead of a smartphone which may be out of reach during an accident – can be a good feature to have for the elderly who prefer to live on their own.
8. Make It Easier To Commute/Travel
If you travel or need to take public transport a lot, a real-time update of when the next train is coming, or how far your cab is, can be a good way to keep your travel plans in check.
I’m sure we appreciate notifications about changed flight plans or an unexpected traffic jam blocking our regular route, in real-time instead of when we make the move to check. This takes constant checking out of the picture (if the smartwatch can help us cut down screen time, it should) while still making sure we get the information we need to make better decisions about our time during the commute.
9. Give On The Spot Ratings And Reviews
Here’s the scenario. You take a leisurely walk through a new town that you are stuck in, for a convention or to attend a family wedding for instance, and you come across a coffeeshop that looks quaint, decent, nice, inviting.
What are the chances that you would look up what the local folks say about this coffeeshop before stepping in to try the coffee? It may be a high percentage, or it may be just me. In either case, to get immediate star ratings and reviews right on my smartwatch when I am in proximity of an establishment is a pretty cool feature to have.
This should, however, be a mode that can be disabled for those who prefer to try things on their own.
10. Sync Communications With Other Smartwatches
For this last bit on my wishlist, let’s go a little crazy. Imagine a smartwatch that could detect another smartwatch by connection by proximity.
If I can get a notification on my watch, that my husband has picked up my daughter from class – intel that is provided by both their watches – without either of us having to call each other, this will be a great way for us to stay on top of three schedules: his, mine and my daughter’s.
Alternatively, we can share shopping lists. I can add milk to a shared list which my husband has access to. A handy notification triggered by his GPS proximity to a store that sells this milk can help remind him to pick it up.
The same can be applied to getting bills paid, running daily errands, buying dinner on the way home, every day things that affect average Joes and Janes.
Bonus: Other Cool Stuff a Smartwatch Should Be Doing
- Unlock smartcars when in close proximity (no more rummaging for your keys)
- Make booking a cab so much easier (send the cab driver your location and/or time of arrival)
- Help keep track of our online spending and finances
- A form of identification authentication via heartbeat biometrics
- The potential for gaming is there for the picking (remember tamagotchi? Well, it’s happening already)
In summary, a watch helps you manage your time. Smartwatches help you manage events in your life. With stripped-down and bare data delivered to your wrist, on a device that can be on you at all times, keeping you hands-free yet connected, the smartwatch is an elegant solution that is meant to be.
It just hasn’t been invented yet.
(Author’s note: Some of the seeds to the ideas in this post came from conversations I had with peers. I’d like to credit Thoriq Firdaus and PH for sharing a couple of the prominent ones.)