Is It a Watch or Something Else?

Ben Bajarin / March 19th, 2013

I was asked to come onto the CNBC Closing Bell segment to discuss the smartwatch hype and rumors. I’m on with my friend and analyst colleague Roger Kay, so that is why he took a friendly jab at me. I’ve been all over the world with Roger and have some detailed stories to tell about him during our travels to Amsterdam *evil grin*.

My main point is that this whole smart watch hype is being thought about all wrong. Time keeping is not the core value proposition. We have brought this up a number of times here at Tech.pinions so to our regular readers that will not be a surprise.

If you have a few minutes and want to see the dialogue, here it is. Would love to hear what everyone thinks.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • kgbraund

    Nice job, Ben…I think there are/will be no limits on future wearable ‘computers’

    • David K

      Could NFC type functionality be put into the watch form factor?

      • steve_wildstrom

        It would probably have to rely on a Bluetooth connection to a phone for the actual authentication, but I don;t see any reason why not. The thing about any wearable device is that real estate and battery power are going to be very precious, so designers will have to make tough choices about what they put in and leave out.

        • jfutral

          How about pairing the watch to an iPhone for security purposes? The thought of my phone being my wallet has long been a point of consternation for me. But a security measure I don’t have to recall (password) and am least likely to leave behind because it is strapped to my wrist, that could be interesting. Or have the lock screen automatically kick in when I am away from my phone instead of all the time, or a second level of lock screen.


  • Rich

    I agree that timekeeping is not the core value proposition of a smart watch. There are lots of elegant Swiss mechanical watches which meet that need very well, and will continue to indefinitely. I view the smart watch as targeting a different market. However I believe it would be a fundamental mistake to load up the smart watch with a long list of functions.

    First, the watch should not be required to handle any kind of audio beyond short alerting beeps. It should never be used for phone conversations, as talking to a watch would look ridiculous and the voice of the person on the other end would sound bad, and would cause excessive battery drain. For presenting information a watch of conventional size is not big enough for anything more than simple messages, and a large watch would be clunky and probably not sell well – especially not to women, and they are half the population.

    The other reason for allowing only a few functions in the watch is battery life. I think the market will demand at least a week between battery charges – two weeks would be better – and if the watch was used a lot it might not last long enough. Additionally, charging needs to be done wirelessly, overnight.

    The watch could beep quietly and show you the caller’s number when you get a call. If you don’t want to take the call, you touch the screen on the watch. If you do want to take the call, you use your phone for the conversation. IMO the proper function of a smart watch is to be a simple and convenient assistant to your phone, and not try to do everything. That’s what your phone is for.

  • diddler

    I always thought iWatch would be a great name for a Smart TV (they will not be allowed to call it iTV). I guess the very recent revision of the Apple TV chipset makes this unlikely, but I can dream.

  • mhikl

    Interesting how narrow focused the other dude was. I gave up wearing a watch with my first Palm so a watch I would not wear, from Apple even. However, to know where my iPad or touch is at the moment or to be reminded I have left it some distance away, nice. As a smart key and the few other features I have read about or could come up with on my own, I smell a game changer.

  • In these conversations, “watch” is a misnomer. “Watch” is being used as an imprecise shorthand for “computing device strapped to your wrist”. “Watch”, from historical use, implies a timepiece, when the objects under discussion are so far beyond that.

    • steve_wildstrom

      Usage seems to be evolving so that a “smart watch” is a small computing device strapped to your wrist, while a regular watch is small timepiece strapped to your wrist (or, if you are old fashioned, kept in your pocket.)

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