Smartwatches could well be the next big thing in mobile technology, creating another genre of device which can connect to the ever-expanding ecosystems that have been built around software platforms first developed for smartphones.
One of the most high-profile examples of such devices is the Pebble smartwatch which has recently begun shipping after a long and well-documented period of crowd-sourced investment drawn from the Kickstarter website.
Pebble uses an ePaper display similar to that found on a Kindle and can connect to Android and iOS devices, pulling through things like texts and notifications. As is the case with many smartwatches, both those that have been unveiled and those that are merely concepts, the device simply means that you don’t have to take your smartphone out of your pocket to perform quick tasks like checking your calendar.
This sort of convenience could be popular, especially to people who have a large, phablet device as their smartphone of choice. Possibly having this in mind, HTC has recently made an interesting move in launching the HTC Mini in several Asian markets. Working as a peripheral which can be connected to its HTC Butterfly handset, the HTC Mini is a tiny, basic phone which can be pulled out when making calls and sending texts is all that is needed.
The Pebble aside, other firms have launched smartwatches already, with Sony being a notable example. The Japanese firm’s smartwatch has been available for some time and is compatible with Android devices, offering several functions such as displaying texts and checking messages. A smartphone’s music player can also be controlled from the device.
Apple has recently been rumoured to have a smartwatch in development and it has also been suggested that Samsung could have the same sort of device in the pipeline. The prospects of several of the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers joining the game is exciting; the competition could well bring about some fantastic innovations.
Since we are possibly at the advent of such devices becoming more mainstream, we think it’s a fair time to ask how people feel about using them. Wearable technology, with all its miniaturised pizzazz, may initially have some stigma attached to it. Pulling a smartphone out of your pocket may draw unwanted attention from others, but wearing a high-tech device that is constantly on display almost certainly will.
After all, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests many iPhone users are uncomfortable with using Siri in public. Talking on a phone is one thing, but talking to it is another, and may deter users from doing so for fear of the odd looks they attract. Could wearable technology suffer from this too?
We asked Dialaphone blog readers if they would use a smartwatch, or any wearable device, and the consensus that came back was negative, though only just. While many respondents indicated that they would use such devices, there was a slight majority who wouldn’t, possibly not feeling comfortable with wearable technology at the moment.
However, the same question asked on the Dialaphone Facebook page brought about very different results. The resounding answer was ‘Yes’, with some people saying that they already do use smartwatches.
Simon Hurford was enthusiastic about Sony’s wrist-mounted innovations, declaring: “I’m rocking the Sony Smartwatch and its predecessor, the LiveView. Both are great devices and I’m looking forward to this year’s accessory”.
Alex Sutton also said that he has a Sony Smartwatch, but was more sceptical about its performance: “I already have a Sony Smartwatch and it’s uncomfortable to use”.
However, it’s not just smartwatches that we could be wearing in the near future since more and more details of Google Glass, the search giant’s head-mounted display technology, emerge over time.
In the latest developments, Sergey Brin, the firm’s founder, has been spotted testing the device on the New York subway and a video of how the device’s interface will work has been released.
Effectively forming an augmented reality display that permanently sits over the user’s field of vision, the functions that Google Glass will be able to perform remain vague, although it is widely believed that the device will display updates and notifications as well as allowing the wearer to photograph things from their point of view.
Even more so than a smartwatch, Google Glass could make people feel self-conscious and users could receive some strange looks at first (as we’ll bet Brin did walking onto a crowded subway train wearing the device).
Nevertheless, such innovations have a great deal to offer and could well outgrow their niche and become the next step in mainstream mobile technology. Should their use become more commonplace it will be less noticeable and people using wearable devices won’t stand out as much. It will be interesting to see if a few years from now we are all walking around tapping our watches to bring up messages that are then displayed on the screens mounted right in front of our eyes.