iWatches are not Practical…yet!

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So you were the one of the first 2.8 million buyers of the Apple Watch? Well hold on to them, they could be worth a lot of money on eBay in 20 years time.

One of the problems with wearables is this, it’s just not practical or worth any money as a used product once you want to sell it. What’s more, there are so many other alternative brands to come out from the likes of Pebble which are more useful but less connected. And this is inherently the problem. Having a connected watch also means it drains battery. Battery technology hasn’t advanced much since the last decade and what’s more, none of the Smart watches from iOS or Android has proven to be a runaway hit. It is essentially, a gadget for gadget freaks.

I have had two experiences, one with a Fitbit clone called the X6 Vidonn and the other is a Pebble Classic watch that cost only 99 bucks.

I must admit that I love the concept of the smartwatch as it would prove useful for a person like me. I have this habit of tucking my phone in my pocket and not hear notifications or calls when I am up and about. So if I had a companion smartwatch, that would make life so much easier. Personally, the Tag Huer Smart watches are the only ones which seem to have outclassed the likes of the Apple Watch but with an even more premium pricing of US$1,500. So all a sudden, if you want something more premium, the Tag makes perfect sense.

But there are others who just want a smart watch for the heck of it. We want to use technology for all that is worth and there is nothing wrong with spending US$360 for one. Problem it, would be practical?

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Here are some of the problems to consider in the long run.

#1 Battery Life Sucks

Ok, maybe this applies more to the Apple Watch than Android wearables but still, the battery life isn’t going last you more than a few days. The usage is dependent on your mobile device. If it is left silent without any notifications, maybe you could extend its life a little longer. Having to charge your Watch at the end of the day…every day or every few days, might sound like a plan but trust me, you’d rather swap out a battery than having to charge it. Wall hugging is a reality if you have to charge your watch once every two days. So imagine if you happen to use that watch a wee bit too often in a day and you’d be screaming for a wall plug in a supermarket.

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#2 You can’t use the Wearable without a Mobile Device

Yep. It’s not a stand alone device. If you think you can find more use for it when you forget to take your iPhone or Android device with you, good luck to you. It might be able to show you the time and day but beyond that, I beg to differ. There are of course China made smartwatches that are completely stand alone. This means you can insert a SIM card into and receive calls, however most of them make use of the older 2G networks for data, which are low drain on the battery, so 3G or 4G is probably pushing your luck a bit when it comes to battery life.

For the rest of us eying the Moto 360 and Apple Watch, these watches have to be connected all the time to be useful.

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#3 Connection issues are the Norm

After you pair your mobile device to your Wearable Watch, don’t expect it to have constant connection. Bluetooth, WIFI and your own inborn talent for telepathy…. these all have connection failures from time to time. Some have less problems, others have more and signal interference is the main cause of it all. So if your watch suddenly stops working because of a broken connection with your mobile device….it’s actually quite normal.

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#4 You can’t make calls like Dick Tracey

This is another reality about watch wearables, you can’t make calls even with a wearable type app. The problem is that speaking to your watch in public will make you look like an idiot. It’s not cool. Instead you have notifications for your watch wearables that appear if someone calls or text. This is probably a better option, as you may not want to whip out your phone to find out that your boss is calling to check on you! But talking to him through the watch? Meh…..

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#5 You can’t play Games on it unless it’s a Flappy Bird

The lack of screen real estate is the problem. If you have big fingers, how the heck are you going to see anything you are moving on screen? Gaming is also big battery drainer. So if you want your Android watch or Apple watch last 12 hours, staying away from gaming is the best policy.

We are also led to believe that since the smart watch has a touch screen, we should be able to key in text messages. Well that’s a long shot unless you were born with stylus like fingers. Text typing on a touch screen watch face is folklore.

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Practical Value versus Technology

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Frankly, to address the issue of connection failure, battery life and gaming…you need a bigger watch. Yep. A super sized device for your wrist. Until we can build super small devices and nuclear powered watch batteries, there is no chance in hell you would find a wearable watch practical enough for every day use. Much of the connection problems is due to battery power conservation. To transmit data wirelessly from your iPhone to your Watch requires a battery big enough to power the circuits. By having circuits which frugal power users will only guarantee you one thing, usability failure.

The idea now is to pack a bigger battery, making the watch a much bigger item on your watch. Would that look cool? I’m not sure but if you have large arms and a big body build, you might get away from it. For the skinnies, a fat watch on your arm isn’t cool.

The magic number in terms of price is still missing. I think the real world possibilities will start with a 99 bucks wearable and not something that cost more than 200 dollars.

Something has to give. If you want an attractive watch, you probably have to give up on practicality. If you want something practical, be prepared to have a battery pack strapped to your shoulders. Now that sounds like a new Kickstarter project which you can look into.

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