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Ask Slashdot: What Features Belong In a 'Smartwatch'? 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the anything-james-bond-had dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "If the rumors are true, and Apple is indeed hard at work on a newfangled timepiece (dubbed the 'iWatch'), what unique features could such a device offer a public already overloaded with all sorts of handheld devices? Answer that question, and you're perhaps one step closer to figuring out why Apple — again, if the rumors are true — decided to devote millions of dollars and the precious hours of some very smart people in the effort. This article suggests voice control (via Siri), biometrics, mobile payments, and other possible features, but there must be loads of others that someone could think up."
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Ask Slashdot: What Features Belong In a 'Smartwatch'?

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  • Time? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by addie (470476) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:36PM (#42887521)

    Hopefully the ability to accurately tell time. But with the way phones these days work at making calls, I won't hold out much hope.

    The whole idea of an iWatch just gives me a headache.

    • Re:Time? (Score:5, Funny)

      by JustOK (667959) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:43PM (#42887617) Journal

      You're wearing it wrong.

      • Re:Time? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dintech (998802) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:29PM (#42888189)
        Considering their track record with DST changes affecting alarms, especially around iOS updates, I don't trust Apple to make a timepiece you can rely on.
        • by Altus (1034)

          my watch doesn't manage DST at all.

          • by c++0xFF (1758032)

            And therefore you manage it yourself.

            The problem is if you trust your watch to do the right thing, but then it turns around and messes up. That's worse than just doing it yourself.

    • The idea is pretty dumb. The only way I can see this being useful was if the watch acted like a second screen to you ipad or iphone. I really don't see the value in a standalone device.
      • Re:Time? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:14PM (#42887983)
        Sony came out with this kind of thing several years ago for the Ericsson phones, called Liveview [sonymobile.com]. It was basically a remote display for the phone using bluetooth. I bought one assuming it would work on Android phones in general, and of course it didn't.

        It was supposed to support things like Facebook and show you email alerts, along with being a basic watch. It came with a watchband and a clip housing, one of which (I forget which) completely covered the USB charging port and you had to pop it out to plug it in. It was almost working as a watch, but the limited button UI was a mess and difficult to remember/use.

        Interesting concept, poor implementation.

        What is most important is that it show the time (synced to the local phone network so it is accurate). Second would be incoming SMS/email (so you don't have to pull a phone out of your pocket to get messages.) Music player control. It has to have an inductive charger plus a standard USB, so you can recharge it away from home or just drop it on the charging pad at night when you aren't.

      • Re:Time? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by alen (225700) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:52PM (#42888489)

        Take a look at Nike fuelband and pebble smartwatch

        It's a watch, biking computer, biometric device, you use it while working out, etc

        It's for people who do more than sit in front of computer screens all day and night

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Me: Siri, what time is it?

      Siri: Okay, I'm playing Morris Day and the Time, Jungle Love...

      Me: No, what TIME IS IT?

      Siri: The time in London is now 9:03 p.m.

    • I have a phone for telling time. I'd want a watch that does something different.

    • Even if it doesn't accurately tell time, you could have it constantly play MP3 files of songs with known times. If it's 5:00PM when Train's Hey Soul Sister (3:37) starts, at the end of the song you know it's 5:03:37PM. Then Ke$ha's c'mon (3:22 radio edit version) starts playing, and at the end you know it's 5:06:59PM. And so on.

  • by who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:38PM (#42887547)
    it should work better than a compass , If im in the woods it should be able to tell me where i am and how to get home if Im lost. and a incredibly long battery life.
  • Chemical sensors (Score:4, Interesting)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:39PM (#42887567) Homepage Journal

    I would love sciency things like being able to determine ozone levels, pH of the air, nitrogen/oxygen mix, alcohol detection. But that's why I'm not in charge of choosing sensors for phones.

    • I'd love to have something that could tell me the blood sugar level in real time. Alcohol level could be cool too, for getting that elusive perfect steadily rising drunkenness without blackouts or vomiting.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Alcohol level could be cool too, for getting that elusive perfect steadily rising drunkenness without blackouts or vomiting.

        You just need to keep practicing, or stop partying with frat boys.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        I hope there's good privacy controls on the data as I'm sure your insurance company would like to have that data too. "We're sorry sir, but we we're canceling your policy because you are pre-diabetic and you drink too much"

  • Bluetooth! (Score:3, Funny)

    by bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:40PM (#42887589)
    Everything is better with Bluetooth!
  • by Lije Baley (88936) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:41PM (#42887599)

    A good smart watch needs a bluetooth handset that looks like an ordinary cell phone. You could use it for voice calls, so as not to look like "that dork talking into his Dick Tracy wrist phone".
    But I suppose people talking to their wrists would at least be slightly less annoying than the bluetooth earpiece people who are indistinguishable from the mentally ill when encountered on a city sidewalk.

    • Has something been done to reduce bluetooth device power consumption? Otherwise it's going to make for a large, geeky watch.
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        Has something been done to reduce bluetooth device power consumption? Otherwise it's going to make for a large, geeky watch.

        Any watch with a screen large enough and bright enough to be useful is going to be a large, geeky watch with short battery life.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      A good smart watch needs a bluetooth handset that looks like an ordinary cell phone. You could use it for voice calls, so as not to look like "that dork talking into his Dick Tracy wrist phone".
      But I suppose people talking to their wrists would at least be slightly less annoying than the bluetooth earpiece people who are indistinguishable from the mentally ill when encountered on a city sidewalk.

      If you have a Bluetooth handset that looks like an ordinary cell phone, what's the point of having the phone built-in to the watch? Just use an ordinary cell phone to make your calls instead of using Bluetooth handset that looks like an ordinary cell phone.

  • by dav1dc (2662425) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:42PM (#42887609) Homepage

    How about some James Bond-esc features, like a: laser cutter, knife, garrote wire, etc. ??

    ^_^

  • Walkie talkie to call self-driving car Feature to make wearer invisible Laser beam No sharks please Please make this watch. Thank you.
  • by Earl The Squirrel (463078) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:44PM (#42887637) Journal

    I want a souped up Dick Tracy [wikipedia.org] watch... with not just a speaker, but video... like this [pcmag.com]

  • What would the killer feature of a "smart watch" be? That depends on who's using it. So the ultimate killer feature would be the ability to use any app from any source, without restriction. That way each person would find their own killer app.

    I think we all know the iWatch, if it ever exists, won't do that.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      So the ultimate killer feature would be the ability to use any app from any source, without restriction.

      I think we all know the iWatch, if it ever exists, won't do that.

      Of course, no other device does this now, so you're kind putting a high bar for Apple.

      Would a Microsoft phone/watch/OS run stuff from Android, Apple, mainframes and the old Amiga? All without restriction? Would an Android watch let you run Windows and iOS apps? You could wait for the Linux watch, but it would be hard to find drivers for i

    • This. Or alternatively, an API that will let any iPhone app expose a separate mini-GUI on a paired iWatch. Same damn thing they should have done for Siri. Both the watch and Siri are/will be great for short, uncomplicated actions, the kind you'd do with a remote control. Such an API implemented in the right kind of app could be a game changer in the way we control our stuff... if only Apple will let us.
  • by dclozier (1002772) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:45PM (#42887643)
    Maybe I could live with charging it weekly but on a daily basis? forget it.
    • Do you wear your watch to bed or something?
      • by dclozier (1002772)
        Yes, I don't have an alarm clock or any other clock in my bedroom. Other than for showering (although it is water proof) and doing physical work that which may break my watch I do not take it off. I have had it for 5 years now. It is a Citizen Eco Drive which is battery/solar powered. Very accurate and long lived. Good luck with the long lived part on a smart watch!
    • by ljw1004 (764174)

      All GPS-tracking watches that I've seen today have a battery life of about one day. So daily charging won't be new for a watch.

    • Ideally they'll integrate a kinetic charger [npowerpeg.com] in the device.

  • It will stream videos, play music, have Angry Birds and have a great newsreader; but won't excel at it's primary task which, in this case, is keeping decent time.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:46PM (#42887651)

    If I have to charge a watch every day, I'm not going to be using one.

    I stopped wearing a watch when I started carrying a cellphone, so I'm not 100% sure I'd use one of these smart watches anyway - but I must admit some of the ideas I occasionally hear floating around this idea do intrigue me. However the existing smart watches don't impress me at all - not really enough bang for the buck.

  • Hey.... you have to admit, having a watch that allowed you to travel through time would be pretty kick-ass.
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      FFS, no! Do you really want every apple fanboi traveling through time, fucking things up? Next thing you know, Hitler turns out to invent Windows and Jesus invents the iPhone.
  • eInk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:50PM (#42887689)

    I think an e-Ink screen is an absolute must. You'll be looking at your watch often in broad sunlight, and with e-Ink, the screen could be on all the time and not take much power when it's idling.

    • Focus on features instead of implementation. What you want is a watch that can be read in the sun and uses as little power as possible. eInk does that decently well, but it also has to refresh in a rather distracting way (which is what's kept me from supporting devices like the CST-01 on Kickstarter [kickstarter.com]). For a company as design-driven as Apple, I'd hope that they'd start with a feature and figure out how to make the technology work how they want (including inventing new technology when necessary), rather than

  • NTP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RandomFactor (22447) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:51PM (#42887713)

    I mean really, it is a time piece after all...

    • by BitterOak (537666)
      GPS would probably be a more practical way to set the time on a wristwatch than NTP. NTP requires an Internet connection which, in areas with no wifi would have to be part of a data plan that you pay for. GPS signals are free.
  • ..with live results of Apples shares prices dropping.

  • Somehow, I don't see why something that has the purpose of telling me the time would be killing anything. But I guess you could always put a tiny assault rifle in one. Or a laser beam (shark optional).

    • Assault rifles are black. Apple likes white. So, it clearly can't be classified as an assault rifle. [/snark]
  • A black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am.

  • Speaking as somebody who uses a lot of iDevices (work and home) including an iPod nano (6th generation) as a watch currently. Battery life is on the order of days of use as a media player, weeks to months if used just as a watch. Adding a few features like Bluetooth would be a further drain on the battery, but I'd hope a few years worth of refinements on an old design would mean that battery life would still be similar after enhancements.
    An overly obvious way to make an iWatch would be to take that same i

  • A "Neurophone" [wordpress.com] is an ultrasonic transducer that uses bone conduction to present sounds to the inner ear.

    How about a neurophone output?

    The output could be spoken Siri-style messages, communication from the watch to the wearer would be inaudible to anyone else, there would be no need for a loudspeaker in the watch, or an earphone.

  • Smartwatch confirms it: keyboards are dying.

  • A functioning watch
    Wifi to seamlessly resync with NTP servers
    Advanced watch functions like alarm, stop watch and timer
    MicroSD card reader
    MP3 player
    Desktop sync (through blue tooth?)
    Maybe a battery cell band for increased power
    headphone jack (you'll need a technique to secure the wire for joggers, exercisers, etc)
    Simple notification system to receive texts, email, tweets, FB updates, etc., seriously doubt sending capability will work

    Lose all the extended functionality like web browsing unless you plan on pim

  • and a large enough wristband to fit around my meaty paw
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:06PM (#42887891)

    A smart watch only really makes sense as a convenient interface to a more powerful machine. The features important to it are therefore input and output, along with a connection to your phone. So a display, a microphone, and a button are the obvious ones. A smart watch will probably have fewer features than a non-smart watch.

  • Multiple devices (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:06PM (#42887893) Homepage Journal

    A separate bluetooth headset should take care of the phone interaction. I would put sensors there (at very least, for pulse), as a small screeen for displaying fast information (time, weather, notifications, playlist controls, etc, and a "remote desktop" for your real phone, that could be big enough to not have it always in your hand.

    Phones are getting big, maybe splitting the interaction with several separate devices could be the way (and yes, something similar to Google Glass could be in the kitchen too)

  • Medical uses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:09PM (#42887929) Homepage Journal

    How about a self-contained package which holds all of the wearer's medical records? (Yes, sort out the security issues first.)

    How about continuous monitoring of heart rate, blood oxygenation, and temperature?

    Rather than go to the doctor "with a fever", the doctor could tell if the fever was low-grade, "spiky", how long it has been going on, &c. Perhaps the specific fever character could be used to disambiguate between certain diseases. A patient could tell if the fever was only certain times of the day (allergic to something at work?) or in certain places.

    Blood-oxygenation monitoring and heartrate could be used to diagnose sleep apnea, tell how much exercise the person is getting. Motion monitoring could diagnose sleep disorders.

    • by nblender (741424)

      I was just about to post most of this... Kudos for your thoroughness...

    • by gnoshi (314933)

      If the Basis band [mybasis.com] guys integrated an oximeter that would fulfil all the monitoring criteria. Mind you, they need to also provide raw data export, and clear documentation on sensitivity, error correction, and filtering used.

      It seems like an almost brilliant device, ruined by failure rates, needing to be registered with an online system to get any data, a complete inability to get raw data, and no API. I'd be ordering one if I could be sure it would come in the next 6 months and I'd be able to read the data f

  • Dick Tracy had it all. [wikipedia.org]

    Frankly, all I want from a watch is: the time.

  • Built-in GPS so the government^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hyou always know where you are. Use the GPS location to figure out when the sun rises and sets, and allow setting alarms in relation to that (e.g. 10 mins after sunrise). That way you always wake up with the sun. Winning!
    • by Laxori666 (748529)
      How the @#$% do I get strike-through to work? I tried s, del, strike, strikeout, strikethrough, and none of them worked. Yes I enabled HTML Formatting for comments.
  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:25PM (#42888125) Homepage Journal
    Although I understand and support Apple's dock connector(historically USB was unreliable and slow, so a combined USB firewire port was great for many of us) USB is sufficient now, and the proprietary connector seems a bit outdated. I would hope that Apple would put a simple micro USB. It wold be a good mass storage device.
  • It should at least play MP3s and Video. Not flash though because that would probably get too hot. It should also link up to my iTunes whenever I am near my computer and automatically sync whatever is in there to the watch. I also thing 2TB of storage isn't asking for the world, I mean c'mon this is 2013. HDMI out should be and option as well as USB3. I mean, it already does Video, we covered that, I should have a way to present that on the projector at work. USB should be available but optional so it doesn

  • by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:27PM (#42888159)

    I stopped wearing a watch over a decade ago (years before I had a mobile phone) and have never missed it. There are so many clocks around most of us there is no need for a watch.

    I for one hope I won't be forced to wear one again in a world requiring them for payments.

    • I still wear a watch, but mine is a little different than others: it buzzes. I need a hearing aid, but don't always wear it - like when I'm sleeping - so my buzz watch acts as my alarm clock. If Apple's purported watch has a buzz mode, particularly in response to iDevice alerts, I could see it being very useful to folks like me who don't always hear the alarms or alerts going off on their iPod Touches. iPhones can buzz, but I don't have an iPhone.
  • And anything james bond has in his watch that looks cool.
  • In addition to the obvious things like GPS, Siri, blutetooth, apps, and phone call response/averting like the ability to answer a call in speaker phone mode with a tap or gesture:

    1. Always-on voice control -- if the toy R2D2 robot running on double A batteries can have it, why cant a modern device (it wont consume much power, it's listening only for a specific keyword(s)).? One of the keywords can be a distress codeword that can call 911 or help and activates (GPS) tracking. Note, Always-on voice control is

  • by Issarlk (1429361)
    It should beep if your smartphone gets out of bluetooth range (ie, you're forgeting it).
  • 1. Exchange business cards on contact. That would be nice.

    2. Do a quick background check on people that I touch. Medical, business, personal, etc and send the result to google glasses or some other display so I can read it in real time. A disease check would be nice too.

    3. Teleprompter. How convenient!

    4. If I die, the watch should alarm and send the appropriate notifications.

    5. Whatever a fitbit does too. Heck, it's there.

    6. Complain if my phone goes out of range. Very handy.

    7. Charge using my body's electr

  • Some sort of proximity color sensor to detect the color scheme of your wardrobe and adjust the screen settings accordingly.

    The new iTunes already does this with album art in album view now, it's subtle at first but pretty striking.

  • Younger people, speaking generally, don't tend to wear watches. The logic being that you've already got other devices that can tell you the time, such as a phone.

    So if it's a "smart watch" then you're duplicating a load of stuff that would be easier to do on a phone already. If it's a fashionable normal watch but with patent troll rounded edges, then why would people need one anyway?

    I'm assuming it'll be something else entirely. Apple, as much as I'm not fond of them, don't really release that many complete

  • A lanyard or a clip or a chain

    For the last 30+ years I have worked in industries where wearing a wrist watch was innconvenient due to hygiene requirements of frequent hadwashing (Meat industry, food industry, child care and now elderly care)

    So I want a timepiece that hangs arounfdmy neck, or is clipped to a pocket or belt.

    Being visible in the dark is also a requirement (I work night shift you insensitive clods)

    An independant-of-internet-connection GPS and compass would be useful, especially in bowing or dee

  • So when I look down at my watch and realize I am late, I can set it back a few minutes. Or if I am stuck in a meeting, I can set it ahead a few minutes.

  • by Goonie (8651) <robert.merkel@benamb r a . org> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:06PM (#42888653) Homepage
    The only point of a device like this is that it gives you a UI that doesn't require fishing through a pocket or handbag. However, pretty much all smart watches have foundered because the screens couldn't display enough useful information beyond the time, and the buttons were too small and fiddly to be convenient. Is there enough useful information that you don't want to fish out your smartphone for that you'd be prepared to get one of these? I dunno. Short messages (SMS, Twitter), appointment notifications, some of the location specific stuff proposed on the Google Goggles video maybe. And it's a bit less creepy than Google Goggles, too.
  • I want it to be a dumb display that my phone pushes what I want to it. Make it a 320X320 display and nothing more.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:26PM (#42888887) Journal

    A smart watch should replace one or more devices I'm required to carry with me, not add to the geek loadout. For instance, if it can do the things my phone currently can do, including provide hotspot for tablet or laptop, and do it well enough that my phone can stay home, then it would be a sought after item. (For me at least.) Bonus points if it has well-integrated, easy to use 2 way TV capability, as I've wanted to own a Dick Tracy watch since I was a kid. But if it's just a bluetooth appliance that talks to other devices that I also must carry, then fail.

    What I suspect we will actually see is a device that interacts with your ipod and iphone and ipad and ilaptop and doesn't provide any unique capabilities or information. It'll be an alpha-geek toy of limited usefulness but supreme bragging rights. Yawn. Just another reason for me to steer clear of the Apple store on launch day.

  • by LionKimbro (200000) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:01PM (#42890631) Homepage

    One of the biggest advantage of a watch, is that it is practically ALWAYS on your body.

    So it should have a virtual button somewhere, to ** ring your cell phone ** for you, so that you can find it.

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