As smartphone sales show signs of slowing down, for many technology companies, wearables, particularly smartwatches, seem to be the next growth market. Tech giants like Apple, Google, Samsung are hedging big bets on wearables. Apple’s Watch, which was launched back in April, has made the company the second biggest wearable company in the world. But consumers tell a different story. They aren’t convinced. They don’t find smartwatches useful enough.
“They’re not worth the money at all. They get outdated easily and are nowhere close to how timeless a similarly priced expensive timepiece could be,” says Rahul Gulati, a marketing professional based in Gurgaon.
Many of these smartwatches come with built in activity trackers just like fitness bands from companies like JawBone and FitBit. However, their tracking isn’t as comprehensive as what the bands offer.
“As far as the fitness tracking aspect goes, they are inaccurate and tedious to use, best case scenario is that you can invest in a fitness band which provides you more accurate tracking data with better battery life,” explains Gulati, who is a fitness enthusiast and early adopter of the LG G-Watch.
For average consumers, who look at a gadget’s novelty, and try buying into big brands like Apple, the utility that smartwatches offer isn’t clear. “They are a cool accessory but I’m not too sure if they are totally utilitarian especially with their measly battery life,” said Eleni Marwein, a law student based in Shillong.
The problem seems to be that the smartwatches are expensive and yet they don’t have either the fashion aesthetic or build of a traditional watch, especially some of the Swiss timepieces. At the same time, they don’t offer the kind of essential functionality that smartphones do.
Some believe not a lot of thought has gone in their form and function, and technology has been crammed for the heck of it.
“Timekeepers are measures of time. And those who made them did so at leisure,” says Udit Kulshrestha, a photographer.
Apart from battery life issues and under developed use cases, the biggest issue with smartwatches at the moment is the way they look. Most feel that they’re ugly compared to traditional wristwatches. “Most of them are made of plastic,” says Delhi-based model Shivani Gupta.
In the case of the Apple Watch, which many felt would define the smartwatch category, people feel that its square dial is a deal-breaker. Apple’s designers Jony Ive and Marc Newson were probably inspired by the iconic Cartier Santos while designing the company’s watch. But people aren’t convinced as many feel Apple could’ve come up with something better.
“It’s rectangular. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it just doesn’t fall right on the eyes for some reason. It’s not as slick as you’d expect an Apple product to be. Perhaps because it’s on the chunkier side,” says Shivani.
Kalita Lamba, a fashion trends analyst based in Delhi, agrees. She calls the Apple Watch ugly. “It’s ugly and, most definitely, it is not timeless,” she says.
Then there are the usability nightmares, or at least the way these smartwatches are perceived. Charging a wristwatch seems like a big issue for most people. People aren’t used to charging their wristwatches as they run on quartz batteries or have complicated automatic mechanisms, which ensure they keep ticking on their own.
“The fact that you have to keep recharging a smartwatch is very un-watch like in the traditional sense,” says Gulati.
Nipunta Khashu, a communications professional, feels that a smartwatch adds to list of things she needs to charge, which already includes a phone, a tablet and a laptop. “It’s another device to charge,” she says.
For analysts who have been watching the market, it is a case of the software moving much faster than the hardware. It is also a question of integration. “It is not only the battery life of the smartwatch that needs to improve, but also the phone, to which it connects,” says Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst, GreyHound Research.
Gogia feels as the category develops with economies of scale and for the smartwatches it is yet to happen. However, he says, with spare parts coming in from China, the smartwatches will also become more affordable and that would help them.
In fact, the rosy future is something that geeks too predict. technology enthusiasts, who are currently early adopters of the smartwatches, believe that for now these products have to be considered accessories for phones.
“These watches have gotten better from the previous year. The way I see it, they’re supposed to be an extension of our smartphones, which is something that can only be achieved by keeping the tech simple. These smartwatches are good at notifying the user, avoiding missed calls, keeping track of steps and heartbeat,” says Lucknow based tech enthusiast and journalism student Sidharth Chauhan.
Chauhan feels that companies are trying to make these devices too complicated by cramming too much tech in them.
Gogia adds that the smartwatch category is not fully fleshed out. “Every second generation product takes into account user feedback and there are improvements to the overall product,” he says.
Both the Apple Watch and a number of smartwatches based on Google’s operating system — Android Wear — come with processors that are similar to the one found in phones, bright displays that consume a lot of battery and a number sensors that monitor heart beats and ambient light etc.
Perhaps that’s the reason fitness trackers do well, because they are single purpose devices. The smartwatches, in comparison seem to be too complicated, too expensive and too superfluous for most consumers.