The single critical problem a smartwatch has to solve

Veröffentlicht: 22. Juli 2013 in Technology

Are watches only jewellery?

With Apple supposed to be working on a smartwatch there is lots of discussion in the market what a smartwatch – or  in case of Apple the „iWatch“ – should be like. Many articles focus on design aspects. Sure that’s a crucial aspect. I guess the share of people wearing a watch rather for fashion reasons than for functionality (=displaying the time!) is pretty high. But design aspects alone will not convince me to switch from my current watch to a smartwatch. It will be functionality instead.

So which problem is there a smartwatch should solve?

In terms of functionality the expectations are widespread. Some say for a watch being called smartwatch it is sufficient if it reminds you of your appointments via vibration on your wrist (take a look at the discussion about the interesting startup Mutewatch for example). Others suppose the smartwatch will replace the smartphone in the future. I don’t think it will. I don’t even know if it will be crucial for a smartwatch to have a touchscreen. A wheel and a button might work as well. From my point of view there is one critical issue to be faced:

A smartwatch should reduce the numerous times you check your phone to see if there is any relevant new information for you to a minimum. To achieve this the watch needs to predict what information matter most to you right now (like Google Now does for example) and display it.

The watch doesn’t have to do the math. The math can be done in the cloud or be provided by your phone which should communicate with your phone in any way. The smartwatch is just a display and no input device. But it makes shure you never miss any relevant information. And if it doesn’t have any important information for you you can just lean back and relax (instead of constantly checking your smartphone for news that might matter).

Let me illustrate what I mean by describing how a smartwatch could help Peter in the course of an ordinary day. Be aware that most of the services are already available right now on your smartphone.


How the smartwatch helps Peter in the course of a day

Peter wakes up and prepares to go to work. Besides the time the smartwatch displays him the information that there is heavy traffic today on his way to work. Peter follows his smartwatch’s advice to take the train instead of the car. His watch tells him when to leave home to get the train in time. On his way to work Peter checks some news sites with his smartphone. He doesn’t want to read full stories on his watch. But he is happy that his watch would give him an update if anything really important would happen in the world (or even in his neighbourhood). When entering the office the watch reminds him that his first meeting starts in a few minutes. He goes there directly. In the course of the meeting he gets a phone call. As the phone and the watch are aware that there is a meeting sheduled the phone doesn’t ring. There is only a slight vibration on his wrist and Peter can check who is calling just by taking a look an his watch. Now lunch time approaches. The phone displays Peter that there is a new business lunch offer in the restaurant just around the corner. After having enjoyed the great dinner he goes back to the office. He has to prepare a presentation for the sales meeting next day. His watch displays the current and upcoming weather, nothing else. For Peter that is a good sign. He is not missing anything really relevant and can focus on getting his presentation done. At seven o’clock he arrives back home. His watch reminds him that now it is time to go running. After the run he is tired. Before he had a smartwatch he used to check different news sites and social networks for relevant updates. But today he doesn’t feel like this is necessary. If there would have been anything really relevant his smartwatch would have displayed him.

Well, these are some ideas on how a smartwatch would be very usefull – at least for me. Being a product manager with a background in market research  I know that it is only seldom a good idea to mistake your own view for what the customers want. However I think a smartwatch has the potential to make it to the mass market if it is built to deliver relevant information that matter to you in time. And there is one more thing I have to say here: Gadgets like Google Glasses could provide exactly the same information to you in the course of the day. But I think I will refuse wearing Glass. And that’s simply for fashion reasons.


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