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Smartwatches Suck, Says Pebble Backer

7/23/2014 01:15 PM EDT
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junko.yoshida
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honest assessment
junko.yoshida   7/23/2014 4:12:00 PM
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Surprisingly candid, honest assessments of their own products. Good reporting!

junko.yoshida
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Re: honest assessment
junko.yoshida   7/23/2014 5:50:14 PM
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One thing that's not clear to me is this: after having acknolwedged that the current generation of smartwatches suck, where should they go from here? Will the whole concept of smartwatches need to be redefined? Or with no immediate technologies out there to solve battery issues, will there be no way out for smartwatch vendors?

rick merritt
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Re: honest assessment
rick merritt   7/23/2014 6:08:56 PM
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Great question.

Is it just too early for the smartwatch? Do we need denser batteries, a chanrging standard AND better low power/hi res displays? Or...?

betajet
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Re: honest assessment
betajet   7/23/2014 7:06:10 PM
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rick asked: Is it just too early for the smartwatch?  Or...

Or maybe, it's just as bad an idea today as it was back in 1977 when Hewlett-Packard introduced the ill-fated HP-01 wrist instrument.

JimMcGregor
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Re: honest assessment
JimMcGregor   7/23/2014 8:26:14 PM
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The McGregor Rule - To be successful in wearables, it must be fashionable or invisible! I agree with the smartwatch evaluation. I believe it is jewelry makers that have the best shot at making smartwatches a success.

junko.yoshida
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Re: honest assessment
junko.yoshida   7/23/2014 8:49:21 PM
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I totally agree with you, Jim. The first vendor which developed a wristwatch, in fact, turns out to be none other than Cartier. Brazilian aviator Santos Dumont -- who was living in Paris -- had asked Cartier to develop a watch he can wear around his wrist. (Until then there was no such thing called a wrist watch!) While he was flying, the aviator needed to check his time but he didn't want to waste his time by taking out a pocket watch from his pocket. (Much like most young people today reach into their pocket to look for a smartphone to find what time it is now)

junko.yoshida
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Re: honest assessment
junko.yoshida   7/23/2014 10:10:11 PM
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Details of Alberto Santos-Dumont story can be found in the link below.

This is a story I did when I was living in Paris where I first discovered Santos-Dumont/Cartier connection.

My assignment then was "On 'Dick Tracy' Time." 

The story was writtten 10 years ago -- but all the issues about "wearable" or "smartwhatches" described in this old story are still relevant today...and the same challenges persist.

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1266743

rick merritt
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Re: honest assessment
rick merritt   7/23/2014 11:01:25 PM
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The swooshing noise you heard was a rush of people going to call Cartier to see if he is planning a smartwatch ;-)

alex_m1
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Re: honest assessment
alex_m1   7/24/2014 1:00:48 AM
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@Junko:

Mainstream smartwatches carry little value , hence they "suck". An no - fashion is not really a good value for most people - or else they would have wore regular watches.

On the other hand, niche watches(and wearables) can carry a strong value. There is/was a strong market for wearables for runners with all those limits. 

So there's a need to :


1. Define a lot of the niche use cases of wearables .There are enough. People have enough real problems that can be helped by wearables.[1]

2. Build a horizonal platform that could programmably serve many of those needs, hence achieving scale, and good prices.

My theory is that given a real use and decent prices many people will be willing to settle on battery life on the one hand(or not settle, they'll only need it a few hours a day) , and on the other hand , volumes will drive  improvements.

 

[1]There were wearables that used  preventing sexual assault[2], carbon monoxide poisioning , saving kids from drowning ,sensing asthma irritants , tracking your kids - those are strong needs. People are willing to charge a wearable for them.

 

[2]http://www.geekwire.com/2014/can-wristband-prevent-sexual-assault-uw-concept-brings-sensors-party/

elctrnx_lyf
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Re: honest assessment
elctrnx_lyf   7/24/2014 4:51:54 AM
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The use case becomes a more important for a smart watch. As you mentioned when there is a purpose it makes it more valuable.

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: honest assessment
Sheetal.Pandey   7/24/2014 5:06:57 AM
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Yes the first feature of the watch is that it must be simple , just wear it. Other features like customization are nice to have and must be user friendly. It must never hang. The interfaces must be very very simple and any software upgrade must be easier to do.

Jessica Lipsky
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Re: honest assessment
Jessica Lipsky   7/24/2014 9:05:47 AM
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What if smartwatches were modular somehow? Or, if users could choose the function of their watches easily customize them to have GPS, phone notifications, or a heartrate monitor? I think wearables and smartwatches will only take off if they have an easily understood, dedicated task.

Darius Pl.
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Re: honest assessment
Darius Pl.   7/24/2014 6:03:42 AM
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@ alex_m1.

These applications are nice to have - but only if delivered for a relatively low price.

There is also a specific problem with all those applications - the user's life starts to depend on it as soon as you delver such device. Then the "game rules" change drastically. It's not just a gadget any more that you throw away into rubbish bin if it works dissatisfactory. Now it is a safety of life issue. So this means that it better won't fail (or it must fail gracefully), you better tell the user clearly when the device is able to help and when it is not. Because as soon as somebody will die - due to device failure, improper use of the device, unforced circumstances (like you discover that some materials may render your device sensors unusable, and by the way - it's not you who made them). You will be in the court and you will have to defend your self. You need a good insurance for that kind of devices. Plus you need an extra good attention while designing (perhaps some redundancy) and testing of the device. Maybe even some certification will be required. The building components may also need some certification depending on the application.  

So this sounds like lots of changes from the mainstream horizontal platform and probably it would increase the device size and price a few times comparing to today's devices.

junko.yoshida
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Re: honest assessment
junko.yoshida   7/24/2014 12:44:28 PM
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@alex_m1, you wrote:

 Define a lot of the niche use cases of wearables 


As you listed at the end of your comment, those niche use-cases are truly "niche" and they are all over the map.

There won't be one-size-fits-all wearables.

Sure, we can create a common platform and build a number of different types of wearables on it.

But again, as promising as "myriad of use-case scenario" sounds, I think, that makes it even tougher for any vendors who want to sell it.

AZskibum
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Re: honest assessment
AZskibum   7/24/2014 1:05:43 PM
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Keep it simple, of course, and fashionable, and with much longer battery life, and with a small enough number of use cases so that it can remain...simple. Those are tall orders to fill -- especially in a world in which so many consumers have abandoned wearing watches of any sort. The smart watch needs to be really compelling to give a consumer a reason to again start wearing something on his or her wrist.

junko.yoshida
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Re: honest assessment
junko.yoshida   7/24/2014 1:19:32 PM
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@AZskibum, all good points. Here's one question, though. Do you really think most people have actually abandoned waring a watch? I am one of those old-fashioned ones who still wear my watch. I recently heard my nice in her early 30's complaining that she's tired of reaching out into her pocket (or purse) to find a phone to tell the time. Sh wants a wristwatch for her birthday. I wonder if she is an exception...

docdivakar
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Re: honest assessment
docdivakar   7/25/2014 11:11:30 AM
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@AZskibum you said the right word "fashionable!" There is a lot of buzz in the fashion circles now a days (in particular San Francisco) on wearable electronics. In general these devices will be limited in their function due to power dissipation.

MP Divakar

Olaf Barheine
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And what about the consumers?
Olaf Barheine   7/24/2014 8:16:16 AM
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96% of the consumers here in Germany think that wearable devices are "technical knickknack that they don't need". This is the result of an opinion poll that I have seen some days ago in a computer magazine. So I think, it is still a long way to go for the manufacturers of wearables. But on the other hand, the situation was not much better when the first mobile phones came on the market.   

Wnderer
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GPS watches
Wnderer   7/24/2014 8:54:40 AM
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I don't own a smart phone, so I'm not in the demographic that needs one on his wrist but as a hiker I do see a market for GPS watches. Right now they are still too expensive. There may be other markets for specialty watches.

GPS watch

junko.yoshida
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Re: GPS watches
junko.yoshida   7/24/2014 1:20:53 PM
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Wow. I am not a hiker but I can easily see myself wearing this. Looks much more convenient than consulting with a map every so often... 

slipoff024
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Good Smartwatches Have Been Here for Over 5 Years
slipoff024   7/24/2014 12:06:19 PM
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I enjoy reading about wearable technology from people who have not actually used one.  I have owned a CECT W968 model (google W968)  for over five years--- long before the big names showed up at CES.  It cost me under $100 via an internet purchase from China.  It is full metal with a color display and a battery that lasts between 12 hours or two weeks depending upon use.  I carry an extra coin size battery in my pocket if needed.  My "watch" has every feature you can find in smart phone except downloadable apps-  GSM sim card, still camera, video camera, MP3 music player, SMS text, web browser, calendar, to-do, ebook reader, bluetooth, speakerphone, address book, USB port for flash drive interface to PC, etc.  It also looks good!  My CECT W968 is but one of many many styles so fashion is not limited by choices.  The only limitation for me is that the color display could be brighter in daylight.  My advice is don't pay attention to critical comments until you try one on.

pedro-juan
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Re: Good Smartwatches Have Been Here for Over 5 Years
pedro-juan   7/24/2014 12:42:20 PM
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I agree with slipoff about reading comments from people who have never tried a smartwatch. I have the original Pebble and I find it invaluable. I don't know where the assertion comes from about one day battery life. I was promised 7 days to recharge and I get just about 8 days. The watch has an easy to use interface and works quite well with my phone. I was concerned about phone battery drain having my bluetooth on all the time. I have not noticed an exceptional battery drain but I recharge my phone every night anyway. As for invisible well it pretty much is for me. I would wear a watch anyway and having a much more functional one has been great. I get up to date info on my digital life. I can respond to emergency stiuations without having to have my phone in my hand all the time and it lets me ignore the stuff that can be ignored. My job consist of helping people with problems. That takes me out of my office often. My primary means of communications is SMS, email or phone calls. Phone calls can be too immediate depending on the situation, I'm busy with someone else, I need time to think of an answer or my hands are full. SMS needs a reply fairly quickly but allows consideration time for correct answer, sheduling issues etc. An email allows for considered reply and more detailed information exchange it also indicates some level of planning on the other persons part. My Pebble lets me be in control of my digital life, who's trying to communicate with me. How they are communcating gives me a sense of their urgency. I always answer the bosses phone calls no matter what I'm doing but sales persons might not even get a email response. I'm in control partly because of my Pebble.

nate-buddy-chucker
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Reviews from a Smartwatch user
nate-buddy-chucker   7/24/2014 12:26:51 PM
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I'm surprised how many people talking about Smartwatches don't actually have one.  Is that because there's little perceived value in them?  Seems likely.

I have a smartwatch.  I use it for two reasons:

* Quick notification of events

* Allows me to bypass the lockscreen on my phone when it's close to my watch

Both reasons are increased efficiency.  I don't have to dig into my pocket, unlock my phone, and then click and swipe through the OS for each text or email.  I can stay more focused on my work _and_ get critical notifications.  Another feature is I can send a call to Voicemail by simply pushing a button on my watch.

Most of the smartwatches are too ugly IMO.  This includes the pebble watch.  I chose the Metwatch because it looks decent, has a "longish" battery life, and does what I need with few extras.  It's moderately water resistant, which I have "tested".

I don't like the charging clip.  Even charging your watch every 5 days is a pain.  The BT connection to my phone isn't 100% reliable and I have to reconnect it every now and then; usually after charging.  I kinda think this is the phones fault in some cases, and the watch's fault in others.

I have been using BTUnlocker or Tasker to keep my lock screen at bay when the watch has BT "link" to my phone.  This is probably my favorite "feature", although it's not rock solid as indicated earlier.  My watch also lets me know if I've run off without my phone.  That's nice, too.

I'm not affiliated with Metawatch or either app mentioned above in any way.  Even for its shortcomings I still think it's one of the best options out there.  Not many seem to know about it.

I have lots of "early adopter" friends, and none of them has a smartwatch; even after seeing mine.  I don't see many reasons for smartwatches to go mainstream yet - sorry.

 

Anatole Besplemennov
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Small OS for ARM9 (and others)
Anatole Besplemennov   7/24/2014 1:56:20 PM
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I've done an OS with footprint about 32 KBytes. It uses software interrupts for user API and can launch program from a SD card (or NAND). But almost nobody is interesting. http://code.google.com/p/startos People try to place Linux even onto the MCU. Linux is based on Unix, last, in its turn is dated by 1967 Year. Is it a progress in IT sphere?!

CommonSense1
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Ask the person who uses one
CommonSense1   7/25/2014 1:19:57 PM
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I've been wearing a Pebble for just a year and it is close to "invaluable." I don't have to dig out my phone for each of the couple dozen emails and SMS I get every day, and the phone caller ID also gives me the early decision about whether to dig out the phone. I did  have it linked up with Google maps but it was constantly giving me directions and that was very annoying.

The charger & cable are plugged in to my bedroom side table and I just link it up avery few days, probably 3 to 5 days. I don't keep track, and have not run it to zero.

 

Perhaps Pebble or others should evaluate a kinetic charging system like Seiko uses: moveable rotor charges the battery. In seiko's case it doesn't need external charging.

The "biggest" problem: the notification features are so useful that my other watches are languishing and I have to make a very deliberate effort to wear a Swiss analog timepiece on the weekends. when I go out, I have found it amusing that so many who don't wear a watch ask about the current time instead of digging out their phones: I guess it is easier to ask. It would be even easier if they would get them sleves a watch!

I am eyeing the smarty ring that was crowd-sourced at Indiegogo just for fun.

krisi
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Re: Ask the person who uses one
krisi   7/25/2014 2:08:13 PM
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Sounds you are wired 24/7 @CommonSense1...out of curiosity would you mind sharing what do you in life to consider digging out a phone out of your pocket a hassle? Kris

CommonSense1
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Re: Ask the person who uses one
CommonSense1   7/25/2014 2:26:49 PM
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During the work week I am a safety manager, so any email could be something "serious," whether during the week or even weekends.

The verb you chose describes some of the hassle, "digging" the phone out. Perhaps my pockets are too small, or the S4 is too large. It is also anoying, and somewhat illegal, to pull it out when I am driving. With the watch it is still somewhat unsafe, but it is legal to see who sent something. Here in NorCal I wouldn't be surprised to see a proposal to outlaw looking at your "smart" watch illegal while driving.

Besides, the all-black pebble is not bad looking.

krisi
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Re: Ask the person who uses one
krisi   7/25/2014 2:29:10 PM
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thank you @CommonSense1...makes sense, in your occupation this sounds like a very useful device...I still doubt whether this is useful for most people though

CommonSense1
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Re: Ask the person who uses one
CommonSense1   7/25/2014 4:02:14 PM
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@Krisi, I agree about usefulness for most people, but I bet if/when Apple releases their version it will outsell everything else whether technically useful or not. The major "usefullness" of the Apple prodcut will be bling/status.

krisi
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Re: Ask the person who uses one
krisi   7/25/2014 4:05:21 PM
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True, it might become a symbol status...plus I bought my nieces iPods, iPhones and iPads and another set of birthdays is coming ;-)

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