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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch? 427

An anonymous reader writes: I don't wear a watch. I never have. So, to me, the push for smart watches has always been a non-starter. But I was discussing with friends some of the features of Android Wear that Google demonstrated at the I/O conference today, and it got me wondering: what set of features would be required for a smartwatch to become viable? Obviously, this is different for everybody — millions of people wear regular watches even though they could easily pull out their phone and check the time there. Any smartwatch can also tell time, but it has advantages (apps that do other things), and disadvantages (needs charging). Clearly, there are some functions for which it's useful to have an object strapped to your wrist, even if that function could be served by the device in your pocket. Telling time is one, and lots of people use sundry fitness doo-dads to measure exercise. It makes sense to me that checking the weather forecast would fall into this category, and perhaps checking notifications. (Conversely, other functions do not translate at all, like taking photos or playing games.) Thus, two questions: if you already wear a watch, what would it take for a smartwatch to replace it? If you don't wear a watch, what features would motivate you to get one?
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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:23PM (#47319367)

    I suspect much like current watches, this will mostly fill a cosmetic need vice a practical one. Sure, having a wristwatch is handy in some situations, but I wear my skeleton because I’m a geek and I think seeing all those gears doing their thing is badass. Despite being made obsolete by digital technology, a well made mechanical wristwatch is still a marvel of technology.

    It’s a toy and a fashion statement. Some people will have fun with it, a lot of people will think it’s stupid, a handful of people will actually find it fills a legitimate need they had but lets not try to invent reasons we need one.

    This whole thing reminds me of the home automation craze (which google appears to be trying to bring back). It sounds really neat and has some serious gee-wiz appeal to it. I’ll admit back in the day I bought into it (and went with x10... a system I wouldn’t wish on an enemy) but you very quickly realize that after lights, temperature, and maybe the coffeepot, there are very few practical applications. Sure some people will go on about how their curtains automatically close when they flush the toilet, but it was mostly a toy for geeks.

    Personally I won’t likely buy one, but I’m not going to berate someone who does.

    Thanks for reading and have a happy Wednesday :)

  • Only if... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scotts13 (1371443) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:24PM (#47319383)

    I could make phone calls on it without carrying a separate phone. Beyond that and telling time, I can't think of any other use for a screen I'd want to wear on my wrist.

  • I already have one (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:32PM (#47319431)

    I already a sweet Casio that's wp to 100M, has an altimeter, thermometer, and various time-keeping functions/features. And it was $50 bucks.

    Until, you can give me a Leila-style forearm-puter with a flexible 6-7 inch touch screen...I'm happy with my Casio.

  • I want to be able to walk to cafe, hold my watch over sensor, and have my home, school, or work station popup. When I walk away my desktop goes away.
  • Re:Second category (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:42PM (#47319557)

    Since this is addressed to non-watch wearers too (last sentence).... ok, I'll answer.
    If you want me to wear a watch, it needs to have:
    1) extreme reliability - it will last at LEAST 5 years, which I have never seen in any watch, cheap or expensive.
    2) Battery will last 3+ years, or it will require no battery.
    3) It doesn't have a shitty leather strap or shiny shit that will make it get stolen or some shitty material
    4) It costs less than $40.

    I have never seen a DUMB watch which satisfies these, and I suspect that any smart watch would fail miserably at ALL of them. All I want is something which won't fall apart will tell me the fucking time when I'm hiking in the woods for a week and my cell phone dies. ALL watches have failed me so far.

    A decent watch will last decades and have a battery that lasts several years.
    There are countless styles and options for the face and band, even in the $40 and under range.
    You're a fucking liar.

  • Glucose Monitoring (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:50PM (#47319637)

    I would buy a smartwatch and wear it--at least at certain times a day--if it provided some sort of blood sugar monitoring. The next release of the iPhone is rumored to have this. If the iPhone 8 has a consistent and/or reliable glucose monitor, I will buy one the first day and start wearing a wrist watch again. (I quit wearing a wrist watch in ~1990 because they ate my shirt cuffs. I wore expensive, for the time, dress shirts to work everyday and my dive watch chewed them up like candy.)

  • Re:Only if... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @07:04PM (#47319733)

    I could make phone calls on it without carrying a separate phone. Beyond that and telling time, I can't think of any other use for a screen I'd want to wear on my wrist.

    I basically agree. Here is how I see it: the thing on your wrist should do things that make sense for something on your wrist to do.

    Making telephone calls is one. Without any other device necessary. Fitness and sleep tracking are also obvious functions.

    But for just about everything else, you can have a tablet. Tether it to your phone (watch) via Bluetooth, or whatever.

    But the point is, I think current "smartwatch" efforts have it backward. Rather then trying to put everything on your watch, powered by your telephone, put the phone and health apps ONLY on your watch, then tether your tablet to that.

    Best of both worlds, rather than the worst.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @07:09PM (#47319765)

    Seriously, why is /. letting Google do their market research here? Pathetic.

    To answer the question NOTHING will get me to use Google products if it can at all be avoided. They've already broken the web.

    Don't feed the Google beast!

  • Mandatory features: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @07:09PM (#47319767)

    Mandatory features of any smartwatch that costs more than $100:

    * Acceptable aesthetics.I'm setting the bar pretty low here, but it has to at least look rugged & utilitarian, if not actually attractive. If it looks like a Fisher Price toy or some cheap piece of plastic junk, it's not happening.

    * Ability to use normal wrist straps, absent some compelling and good reason to the contrary.

    * Glass that's either independent of the screen & can be replaced when cracked by me for $10 or so worth of parts and an hour of time, or hardened enough to survive getting repeatedly scraped against rough concrete walls. I destroyed dozens of watches growing up by accidentally getting too close to a wall/concrete pillar/whatever and scraping or smashing the glass.

    * MINIMUM 36-hour battery life

    * At least two tactile hard buttons that can be easily pinched independently of one another and used as a modifier key with the other. I hate HATE ***HATE*** touchscreens in general, and a watch would be the worst touchscreen environment of all. The only way to make it random-touch-resistant would be to add latency and sample delays that would make it feel laggy & slow.

    * Rootable & reflashable as I see fit. Android would be nice, some Linux variant would be OK, and frankly I could live with an Atmel AVR as long as I can personally reflash it.

    * Real, honest-to-god e-ink (not LCD-based "e-paper") display that takes a cue from the DSTN LCD displays of yore & has two or more independent controllers that can update different parts in parallel (doubling or quadrupling the time to redraw the display). Enough framebuffer ram to do full-blown double/triple-buffering with *really fast* DMA (to let you compose changes, then propagate them to the actual display in an instant instead of 200-400ms) would be even better. There's no technical reason why an e-ink display HAS to be glacially slow... they've just been slow up to now because they were designed to minimize component cost and conserve battery life. But since they'd only consume power while being actively updated, the power budget difference between e-ink with parallel controllers and e-ink with one slow controller would be fairly small (think: race to sleep instead of always running slowly).

    * If it DOES have a touchscreen (in addition to the aforementioned pair of diagonally-opposed hardkeys from a few points back), that touchscreen needs to be capable of AT LEAST 120 samples/second (if not with stock firmware, at least the hardware itself when reflashed to a custom ROM). A tiny screen NEEDS a high sample rate to get any kind of acceptable resolution from a capacitive sensor.

  • To make it worth it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jarik C-Bol (894741) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @07:20PM (#47319847)
    The key features to make a 'smartwach' worth my money, in my mind, starting from the hardware side:

    1. E-ink display. Easy to read in daylight, can be illuminated from the side for low light use, extremely low power use.
    2. Inductive charging. I need to be able to take my watch off and set it down on a stand, and pick it up in the morning knowing its charged, no fiddling with little connectors that get corroded by my personal humidity.
    3. Decent water resistance. This is an extension of number 2, but vital. I need to be able to sweat, wash my hands, slosh a drink, and not be worried about ruining a multi hundred dollar piece of hardware strapped to my hand.

    as for software features, I desire:

    1. Show me the time without having to screw with it. - I don't want to be pressing buttons on my watch just to see the time during the day. At night, yes, a button for a light, but I need it to be a 'at a glance' function.
    2. caller ID function, and ignore call function. This thing is linked to my phone, so most of its point is to be able, at a glance, to see who is calling me, and ignore the call if desired. Single dedicated button for this function would be best.
    3. Volume control for headphones attached to phone. - say, I have my phone in a pocket/arm case, using headphones to listen to music or make calls. digging the phone out to change volume, or fiddling with tiny buttons on the side of my head at my headset sucks, It would be nice to be able to use a volume control on my wrist to adjust the volume of whatever i'm using. Remember, this 'watch' is supposed to be an extension of my phone. basic pause/play/skip function would be nice also.

    Honestly, thats about it. The main thing that makes me dislike the current smart watch offerings is bulk, charging, and over-feature. There are very few things I will want to do on a screen small enough to fit on my wrist comfortably, and as such, I see the smart watch as more of a peripheral device, not a primary interaction vector for my devices.
  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor[ ]et ['f.n' in gap]> on Thursday June 26, 2014 @01:17AM (#47321903)

    Well, they ARE a solution looking for a problem. Or rather, a problem that's strictly manufactured by marketing.

    See, the problem is, everyone "wants" a bigger screen. They're great for watching movies and playing games. But they're piss-poor at well, communicating. So the user buys this huge phablet, then enjoys it doing movies and games. But then they get around to tweeting and texting and calling, and realize that the damn phone is useless! They can't really hang it off their belt because it's too big and unwieldy, it's a solid slab in their pocket, so the phone migrates to less and less convenient locations.

    Eventually, it migrates to a spot where it's not easy to get to. For a lady, that's their purse. For a man, it's one of those pockets that can tolerate the flatness without being too uncomfortable.

    Of course, now you have a problem because the phone isn't readily available and they want to text and it's a huge pain because they text, and it's too big for their hands, so they have to use two hands to hold it.

    Or they get a text, dig it out and find it was completely useless.

    So the solution? A smartwatch! Because you bought an ill-sized phone that really is only good for a couple of things, and really, really lousy at everything else you use it for, you buy a smartwatch. Don't want to dig the phone out of your pocket or purse to read that text (because a lot of people have no-mo-phone-phobia (the real name is very close to that), the fear of missing out anything that happens on their phone). What's a person to do? Enter the smartwatch so you can glance at the text, reply, all without having to haul that massive slab out from god-knows-where.

    Of course, some use it to cheat their "no phone" rule at some gatherings where the phones are placed on the table and the first guy to check it gets to pay the bill.

    And you know what? I bet Apple is doing the same thing - they're going to introduce the 5.5" iPhone 6, and sell it with the iWatch because user testing has shown that the big phone is completely hard to hold, carry and use for texting and calling and is dumped in the deepest reaches of some pocket.

    (Of course, Apple will probably do it right with a "leading" battery life of a week. But still, my point remains - thanks to marketing, everyone wants big screen phones despite their complete impracticality. Big screen is beautiful. Big screen is also PITA to use.)

    Hell, you can't even buy half decent Androids that don't compromise on something with a smaller, more usable screen.

To iterate is human, to recurse, divine. -- Robert Heller