What is a SmartWatch?

Isn’t it funny how it seems like every few years a new piece of tech comes along and runs the whole gamut. That is manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola, or Sony scramble all over each other trying to get the best product to market. Most of them take the same formula and expand it a bit here and there, but it’s not very often a company comes up with something truly unique.

Then again unique is relative. Take smartwatches for example. I tend to believe they are very unique for one simple reason (and we’ll get to that in a bit), while others think they are merely a gimmick- a current fad if you will.

5 different smartwatchesI genuinely believe they are unique because of how popular smartphones are today. Just take a venture out into the world and observe how many people use their smartphones constantly. One thing we tend to do when you have one is continuously check it for notifications. We all do it it’s a habit that’s very difficult to break. That’s where smartwatches come in and it’s also why I think they’re unique, they can cut down on this need to be tethered to a smartphone simply because they offer that visual stimulation for you.

One of the most interesting things that a smartwatch can do, or most of them can anyway, is connect directly to your smartphone and display notifications, updates and messages right from your wrist. That means you don’t even need to pull your smartphone out of your pocket to check your latest email. You can simply tilt your wrist and glance down real quick, leaving you with the opportunity to remain social or focused on what you’re doing.

Okay, so that seems a bit silly when you think about it. They’re simply a piece of wearable tech which act like a smartphone and eliminate your dependency on tech. The thing is, smartwatches can do so much more than that. Which brings us to our first point, what are smartwatches and what can they do?

What Makes a SmartWatch Smart?

The first thing you’re probably going to ask is what makes them so smart, right? Like smartphones and smartTVs, smartwatches are considered to be “smart” because of the features they have to offer. They do so much more than a standard watch, which has a definite purpose to keep track of time.

It’s difficult to describe smartwatches in their entirety without touching on smartphones too. At this point in time, until a company comes up with a better solution, most smartwatches must be paired with a smartphone in order to get the full experience. This is because a smartwatch all by its lonesome is really just nothing but a watch with the power to run simple apps.

samsung galazy gear smartwatchThat’s not to say a smartwatch isn’t useful if you don’t have it paired to a smartphone, it just means a lot of the unique functionality is removed from the equation. Like I said above, that’s because a smartwatch generally augments your smartphone by displaying messages, notifications and updates in a more accessible manner.

Most smartwatches have a small capacitive touchscreen display, nearly identical to what you’d find on the latest smartphones albeit in a much smaller form factor. Depending on the brand or model of the smartwatch, it operates just like a smartphone. You can install apps on it, customize or personalize it, or just view notifications in realtime.

Of course, some smartwatches don’t have a touchscreen, and others have significantly less functionality. It just depends on the model and brand. For example, the Pebble smartwatch (which first appeared on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter) offers all of the above. While the Martian Victory on the other hand is a standard smartwatch with a very small LCD screen that only displays simple notifications.

They vary in price and functionality, but there’s something available for everyone in terms of what you want out of a smartwatch.

What are the Most Common Uses of a Smartwatch?

Because this question is better answered with a short and simple bullet list, that’s what I’m going to use.

  • Receive and view notifications, messages or updates in realtime right on your smartwatch display
  • Install apps tailored specifically for your smartwatch to expand functionality (only on select models and brands)
  • Personalize or customize the general screen appearance and style (for the most part this has to do with visual elements onscreen much like how you personalize your smartphone homescreen, icons, etc.)
  • Keep track of time
  • View calendar updates or keep up with important meetings and tasks (select models and brands only)
  • Looking good, or like a complete geek (depends on how you see it and what model you select)
  • Listen to music or bump and grind (depends on the model)

What a Smartwatch Can’t Do Well

You can’t explore a smartwatch without also outlining what they are not capable of doing, so again here’s a bulleted list.

  • Smartwatches are not good for information consumption, that is you don’t want to use them to read lengthy text content or news
  • Handle smartphones tasks and functions directly, or in other words don’t expect to be able to answer messages, emails or perform similar actions right from your smartwatch
  • Use apps designed for a smartphone, because most apps need to be tailored specifically for the smaller screen and being activated from your wrist
  • Snapping photos effectively, while I’m sure someday smartwatches will include inline cameras (everything does these days) I don’t see a viable way to take images with your wrist
  • Play games, in my opinion touchscreen controls are hard enough to control forget having to move a virtual joystick on such a small screen with one hand
  • Offer amazing style, don’t get me wrong there are some fantastic looking smartwatches out there and some of them even get pretty darn close to being stylish (I personally love more minimalistic style watches), but a bulky wristwatch just isn’t fashionable to most

Please keep in mind that the points made above are generalized. Not everyone will agree with them and some may have a different opinion, which is fine. Take the latter point about style, for example. I personally have no interest in style nor do I care whether or not a smartwatch looks good. In fact, I feel that some of the watches look damn good, even sitting on a wrist. That being said, this list offers more of an objective approach to what smartphones can’t do.

All Things Considering, Should I Buy a Smartwatch?

To be perfectly honest, no one can truly answer this question but you and it’s true of all things not just smartwatches. I wholeheartedly recommend doing a fair amount of research into a new piece of tech like a smartphone or smartphone before running to a local store and plopping down the cash. There are so many different brands and models to choose from, and so many different functions that they can include or not include at all. You want to choose the model and brand that’s right for you.

Worse yet, salesmen at most retail stores have some idea of what a product can do but you’d be hard-pressed to find a true expert. Admittedly, even someone like myself who is grounded in the world of technology, gadgets and computers doesn’t know all there is to know. That is because there are so many brands, models, or product types there is no way to know absolutely everything.

To put it bluntly, an Apple guru won’t be able to explain the benefits of an Android device and vice versa (unless of course they use both platforms on a regular basis).

The point here is that you want to look at the strengths, weaknesses and features of all models and choose the one that fits your needs best. Looking at the points made above, do you think a smartwatch will be worth your money? Do you feel that a smartwatch can do what you want it to? If the answer is no, and you want a particular feature or function that hasn’t been implemented yet then you should hold off.

The technology will advance in the coming years, and that means smartwatches will evolve to the point where they can do more than what’s listed here. Keep this information in mind when considering your next purchase, and you can’t go wrong.

About The Author

Briley Kenney

Briley Kenney is an experienced tech enthusiast who enjoys all things electronic and gadget related. Currently, Briley writes for a plethora of professional websites including Digital Trends, Lifewire, Ideaing, SmartWatches, and several prominent, but confidential, SEO companies. He has also written in-game content for the indie gem Tales of Illyria and it's two sequels Beyond the Iron Wall, and Destinies.