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Watching smartwatches

Smartwatches provide easy access to personal data in a wearable device. Modern devices sparking the latest wave of use include Pebble, Android Wear, Apple Watch. An important aspect of the popularity of these platforms is their open programming and app distribution platforms. For little or no cost, anyone with programming knowledge can develop and distribute an app. However, excitement about the platform and availability of a programming platform does not necessarily translate to useful and usable apps.

Two big hurdles exist that are particularly relevant for app designers: domains of use and continued use. First, it’s not yet clear what the domain for the smartwatch “killer app” will be—the apps that are so necessary and desired that people will pay for the technology necessary to use them.  Candidate areas for the killer app include health and fitness, highly accessible notifications for email and messaging, and social media. Second, an unanswered question is whether people will use them long term–there’s lots of attrition for even the most popular hardware.

We set out to understand these questions in my CS 3714 mobile software design class. An assignment asked that students perform an analytic evaluation of a smartwatch over the course of at least 5 days. Pebble, Android Wear, and Apple Watch smartwatches were available for checkout. Students were asked to identify at least three smartwatch apps to use prior to the 5-day period, then use the smartwatch and apps over the course of the 5 days for several hours each day. It was asked that at least one of the apps be a health- or fitness-related app, and at least one of the apps (perhaps the same one) was to have a companion app for the smartphone.

Students completed a form indicating whether they generally wore a watch (standard or smartwatch), which smartwatch they chose to wear for the assignment, how long they wore the smartwatch for the assignment, and which apps they used. The students were asked to craft a narrative to describe the experience with your selected hardware. The narrative covered display and interaction experiences as well as experiences with each of at least three different apps. It is expected that the narrative cover about 800-1000 words.

Students tended to complete this assignment with a higher completion rate than the other (programming) assignments for the class–68 out of 71 students submitted it. 24 students used the Pebble, 38 used an Android Wear watch, and 6 used the Apple Watch. Most used the smartwatch for longer than the requested 5 days; the median usage time was 7 days and the average was 8.9 days. Only 40% of students reported that they regularly wear any sort of watch, and only 10% reported having worn a smartwatch regularly.

Students tended to use more than the 3 apps that the assignment asked them to use. Most students used fitness apps that came with the smartwatch (e.g., Android Fit, Apple Activity). Others used run tracking apps, and a few tracked other diet or exercise. Map alerts and other notifications were popular, as were games. Surprisingly, only a few people reported using social media in a meaningful way (i.e., beyond receiving text messages); perhaps that is because of the short usage time.

Comments from student narratives reflected a general interest in the technology. They found the smartwatch “pleasant”, “nice and convenient”, and “very handy”.  Notifications seemed to be an advantage, with the smartwatch “a great way to read and dismiss notifications” (though others found notifications annoying or “glorified”). However, few people seemed poised to purchase or use the technology based on their experiences. The most common complaints were that the hardware was “ugly”, “awkward”, “incredibly silly”, and “not aesthetically pleasing”. Others found the technology hard to use, with comments like “my finger takes up half the screen”, “small buttons”, and “no way for users to type”. Lots of students admitted that they were “just not a watch person” or that they “disliked watches”, and there was nothing about the smartwatch that they wore to change their minds.

An important side effect of the smartwatch watching assignment is that students better understood the capabilities of smartwatches. In prior semesters when students did not have the experience of wearing a smartwatch, designs tended to be unrealistic or impossible to implement. Students in this semester seemed to have a better understanding of how a smartwatch would be used, and as such their homeworks and projects were targeted more appropriately for the smartwatch. There’s a danger that their experiences may stifle their creativity by highlighting what has been done, but that seemed outweighed by a realistic understanding of capabilities and scenarios of use.

There’s an interesting history for smartwatches, from the Dick Tracy vision to the poorly-received models from Seiko, IBM, and others through the 1980s and 1990s. The new wave of smartwatches seems to be booming, but it’s unclear whether that boom is here to stay. My research group has been exploring smartwatch use in the classroom as reported in a SIGCSE paper, demo, and poster in 2015.  And we put together an app set to look at reactions to smartwatches in an elementary school outreach experience.  A previous in-class activity comparing games across platforms (smartwatch, smartphone, and laptop/web). It seems likely that young people will help define whether and how smartwatches will be used (or whether the movement will fizzle, or appeal only to niche groups) in upcoming years.

  1. Kimberly Sibol
    April 26, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Professor McCrickard,

    DISCLAIMER: For the data below, I utilized the document you provided us with for further analysis of the information collected. The percentages are based on my interpretation of comments and may not be the most accurate representation of student’s feelings towards the smartwatches.

    After reviewing the core comments on the datasheet you provided, I found that about 80% of students had similar experiences to me using their smartwatches for this assignment. I thought the watch was extremely uncomfortable, awkward and annoying to have on my wrist over the 5 day period. About 12% of students used the words uncomfortable, awkward, not aesthetically pleasing, ugly, and clunky in their narrative. For me, the watch really didn’t fit my wrist which made it difficult for me to keep it on during the day because it kept moving around. Being a person who wears a normal watch every day, I was used to having something on my wrist while going about my daily activities. The smartwatch was a lot larger than a regular watch which is the main reason I described it as clunky and uncomfortable.

    Out of the 68 students who completed this assignment, about 22% described the watch as having too small of a screen, a non-intuitive navigation system and impractical all together. Almost all of these comments were things I mentioned in my narrative. I felt like I spent more time trying to figure out the navigation system of the watch than I did actually using the apps. The screen was extremely small and the touch sensitivity was terrible. I felt like I had to swipe multiple times to actually change the screen. I have used an Apple Watch before to test it out and the navigation system and touch sensitivity are far more advanced than the Android devices.

    About 12% of students who used the smartwatch said they would not invest money in buying one and a good amount of students admitted to not being a watch person to begin with. Although there were negative comments, some students did have positive experiences with the watch. The most popular “good” experiences I saw in the core comments were about the notifications, games, step counting and heart monitoring, Map Directions and an overall positive experience with the apps used.

    After further reviewing the data, I believe students had more complaints about the watch than they had enjoyable experiences.

    Kim Sibol

    • April 27, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Kim, thanks for your comments. It’s interesting that there are a lot of contradictory observations that you noted; e.g., the watch was both “larger than a regular watch” and “clunky and uncomfortable” but also “too small a screen”. It makes me think the technology and apps aren’t quite there yet.

  2. Seth Nute
    April 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Hey Professor McCrickard,

    Quick background for those reading this comment that aren’t Professor McCrickard; I’m an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech who is taking the Spring 2016 HCI Capstone lead by Professor McCrickard. My project for this class involves me developing an application for Android Wear and and accompanying app for Android phones. This has left me with a solid month and a half of daily smartwatch use and a similar amount of time spent researching capabilities and doing actual Android Wear/Android development. This comment will detail my experiences with the devices and my analysis/opinions on some of the topics presented in this blog post.

    It may be helpful to begin by first providing my own answers to your smartwatch heuristic:
    – I wear a watch just about everyday of my life.
    – I’ve worn the Moto 360 Sport provided to me during this class every day since acquiring it (so, about a month and a half total). I did not previously own a smartwatch of any kind.
    – Applications that I commonly interfaced with included Fit, Flashlight, Power of Two (a game), Weather, PaperCraft (a game), Notifications and the app I was developing: WatchDog (a biometrics tracking application to assist those with PTSD).

    Some of my general comments about the device I was using include: I didn’t find it overly stigmatizing/”nerdy” to wear this during day-today life, I found it fit comfortably on my wrist, I found the battery life to last ~10 hours or more even with the screen always on ambient mode/heartrate monitor running constantly, and I found the charging dock to be convenient and easy to use. Things I didn’t like included wrist gestures, constant notifications, and the development API. The thing I absolutely loathed is more a limitation of the screen size: INPUTTING TEXT IS SO DIFFICULT. Dictating text via speech is the only option, and anyone who has tried to use Siri or Cortana or Ford Sync etc etc for considerable amounts of time knows how frustrating this can be.

    Now that you have a good idea of my where my biases sit let’s get into one topic I find fascinating, the strong hesitation I have to buy one of these devices. In the data collected by Professor McCrickard it wasn’t uncommon for students to suggest that they couldn’t justify spending a large amount of money on one of these devices, even though they enjoyed using it and saw the appeal in the device. I’m in this camp, too, and will not be purchasing an Android Wear device or any other smartwatch anytime soon. So why is this? For me, personally, it’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. The functions the watch provide that I actually enjoy (notifications, some fun apps, biometrics data) can mostly be had through any mainstream smartphone or even laptop/desktop. The rest of the functionality that I care about, which mainly boils down to biometrics data, can be had for much cheaper with a low-end Fitbit or similar device.

    And therein lies what I suspect to be the crux of the problem, the average consumer and especially the technically savvy already have hardware that can do all the things a smartwatch can do, so what compels them to spend the 300$+ to buy one of these devices? My personal opinion is that most won’t find a real reason and that mainstream smartwatches will never be a trend on the order of magnitude of smartphones.

    However, I do feel that some consumers will find a niche use of the watch that justifies the cost for them, especially as the cost of the hardware itself falls over time.
    What exactly will these niches be? As mentioned in the above blog post, it’s very difficult to say. One promising area (and an area I’m particularly invested in) is that of biometrics tracking. Simple hardware such as low-end Fitbit devices can gather this biometric data easily, but lack the versatility needed to do any complex analysis or provide robust interaction with the collected data. Smartwatches could shine here by providing superior quality and accuracy of collected data, longer battery life, and most importantly, better intractability with the data.

    Another area I see smartwatches excelling is as an instant notification tool. I loved the quick and easy notifications provided to me by my smartwatch, things like my agenda for the day or a text that I had just received. I could see the convenience of these notifications shining during everyday scenarios such as driving, sitting in a presentation, or running errands and forgetting your phone in the car. However, I found myself longing for LTE connectivity and speakers on my device. These two features would free me from having to carry my phone on me at all points of the day and allow the watch to be more useful during high intensity situations. What I’m trying to say is that I really wished the dang thing would just read my texts for me or allow me to answer a call when I’m driving.

    Overall, I feel that smartwatches in general are more of a niche product that won’t ever provide enough functionality to warrant 300$+ price tags, especially not when one can buy a cheap smartphone for under 50$ these days. The Apple Watch is a good example of the quality of hardware I feel is needed to generate interest in the device (has heartrate monitor, speakers, quality touchscreen, good battery life, etc) and honestly most Android Wear and Pebble devices don’t even come close to this yet. Even when they do AND the overall price for these devices is lower, I find it hard to believe that these devices will spread outside of tech and other niche communities. I suppose only time can really tell.

  3. Thomas Dowey
    April 30, 2016 at 3:26 am

    In general, when it comes to looking into new technology, you always need to look into how it will be used by the general public. Current smartwatches share some similar functionality to smartphones, but have the advantage of being more accessible as they are always attached to your wrist. In some cases, they add even more functionality as they can have access to your heartrate and can act as a pedometer, making them an excellent choice as a fitness tracker. However, because it has to be comfortable on your wrist, the screens are usually tiny, making it difficult to use for more complex applications.

    If you plan to use your smart device for a very limited purposes, such as phone calls, fitness, and a music player, then a smartwatch might be a good choice, but if you plan on using it more like a portable computer, such as for searching the internet, watching videos, and texting, then the smartphone is a better choice since it has a larger screen. The manufacturers of these smartwatches realize the limitations of the technology, which is why most smartwatches are relegated to being a “companion” to your smartphone, but if they have such a limited use to begin with in comparison to a smartphone that you already have, it seems like owning a smartwatch is redundant if you already own a smartphone.

    From looking at the data, it seems like most of your students will agree with the above observations. Although they may prove useful for fitness applications, which may help them form a niche market, their reliance on smartphones will prove to hurt them in the eyes of the consumer. With smartphones costing as much as $700 out of contract, spending another $200-$300 will seem like a waste if that only means they can take phone calls if they’re too lazy to pull the phone out of their pocket.

    Like I stated above, it’s important to know how new technologies will be used by the general public. Technologies that generally improve over current methods are usually the ones that succeed, but for others, they are either labeled as niche if they serve a specific purpose or will fail entirely if they serve no purpose. As of right now I see smartwatch technology falling into the latter category, as I can see from the response from your class. Time will tell if they finally do take off, but I see prices being too high and functionality being too low to ever see it happen.

    -Thomas Dowey

  4. Thomas Borklund
    May 2, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Watches in general seem to be on the decline for people in the college age group, and even worse for the generation below that. With many people having a cell phone in their pocket, few see any reason to wear a watch beyond aesthetic reasons. When smartwatches started to come onto the scene I was very interested in seeing if these “modern” watches would bring the watch back to life. Unfortunately, the often large price tag associated with these devices made it difficult for a lot of people to acquire. This experience was perfect, because it gave nearly all students in the class a chance to try out one of these devices without the crazy price tag.

    The main observations I got from looking over the data on the spreadsheet was, similarly to what Professor McCrickard said in his overview, that many people seemed to like their device but could not see the point in purchasing one themselves. I seemed to get a sense that the participants could tell that their happy experiences with these devices would quickly diminish at the end of the “honeymoon period” with the device. For many of us(me included), it was very cool to fool around with this tiny computer on our wrists. Having never used one, I was sufficiently impressed at its functionality and I think many other people were too. Doing things like playing games, which was fun when I first got the watch, quickly got old on the small screen. I think a lot of the other participants felt the same way.

    Most people seems to be really positive about receiving notifications on the watch. I’ve personally dropped my phone a bit too many times, and now it doesn’t always vibrate when I receive some notification. Having that buzz on my wrist was nice, because it made very sure that I wouldn’t miss anything. In terms of keeping you constantly up to date with your phone(and as a result the wider world), the watch was very good. A large gripe with this, and I would agree, is that even though you knew exactly when you got a notification, you still had to pull out your phone to do anything about it. The phone is still the absolute focal point of the whole system, which essentially diminishes the watch to a $249 buzzer with a screen. In my opinion, and judging from the opinions of the participants, there just isn’t enough functionality associated with these smartwatches to make them worth the purchase.

    The biggest problem with these devices in my opinion is how they look. When smartwatches first started coming out, they were hideous, blocky things that couldn’t do much. This is starting to change, but there are still an alarmingly large number of smartwatch manufacturers who don’t seem to care what their devices look like. In my opinion, in this modern age, a watch is little more than a fashion statement. People still pay quite a bit of money for luxury watches such as Rolex, which are mainly used as fashion and status symbols. If smartwatches want to become popular, they will have to recognize this. Samsung could build the most functional and useful smartwatch in the world, but if it doesn’t look good on your wrist, no one is going to buy it. In my opinion, this is the biggest roadblock towards a smartwatch revolution.

    -Thomas Borklund, CS 3714

  5. Krista McGuigan
    May 2, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    A common theme I noticed among the comments about smartwatches of all kinds were that they were too large, uncomfortable, and awkward to be used easily as a watch would be and too small to be used as a replacement for a phone. It seems that most people liked the idea of what they do and found some features to be useful, but were not pleased with the current setup and design of smartwatches. I also found this to be the case, as I enjoyed having features such as maps and notifications on my watch so I would not have to be always on my phone to get directions or to read a text I did not want to respond to yet. However, I agree with what many people said about the watch being impractical for daily use as it felt chunky and became more of a burden in most situations. I also noticed that many of the people who did enjoy using the watch for a few days did not find it to be worth the cost. I don’t think smartwatches are currently at a level of both functionality and style that makes people feel as if it is worth it to spend a significant amount of money on it when it is not doing anything that their phones don’t already.

    I looked to see if there was a common opinion of the watch of people who typically where a watch, as I believe these would be the people who potentially have the highest opinion of it. By looking at this, I found that people who regularly wear watches still found smartwatches to be impractical. Many said that they did not like its appearance and found it hard to navigate, as well as the learning curve being large.

  6. Josh Schenk
    May 3, 2016 at 5:56 am

    I was one of those that didn’t quite see the appeal of the smartwatch and found it more annoying than useful. This opinion seems to be shared by the majority of your sampling. The primary complaints seem to be that the watches are aesthetically displeasing along with having a lack of functionality. A secondary complaint seems to be lack of responsiveness/lag. As far aesthetics, it seems this can be overcome. I just read an article recently claiming Apple generated more revenue in watches than Rolex. $6 billion vs. $4.5 billion if memory serves. It’s not surprising that Apple has created something of a fad for their style of watch, they obviously have a penchant for it. Lack of responsiveness is always something that will be improved, technology only gets faster and more efficient, another point for smart watches. Unfortunately, without significant innovation and novel thinking I don’t know how they improve the functionality and capabilities of smartwatches. The platform just makes it inherently difficult. The screen is very small, there is little room for button like objects, which means there are only a few operations you can do on a single layout. They would need significant advancements in utilizing voice to operate devices or something along those lines if the smartwatch is to truly take off.

    Despite Apple’s impressive showing in sales only of the 2/6 iOS users in this survey had positive statements about the watch. Obviously a small sample size and larger than the ~20% positive rating of all watches but definitely not a point in the favor of Apple being able to make smart watches desirable.

    Also in the news recently is a class action law suit against FitBit. And not just one lawsuit but two, for both their sleep tracking technology and their heart monitors. Of course they vehemently deny the allegations but it will be interesting to see how things play out. A lot of other manufacturers use similar technology so this might have rather large repercussions.

    I feel like it’s obvious I’m not a fan of smart watches and feel I should give some context. I also don’t really see a huge need for tablets either. Watching a movie in a cramped space is one of the few contexts I would use one in. I just feel that if you have a decent sized, powerful smart phone, such as a galaxy s6 and a laptop that should cover it. A smart watch and tablet just seem superfluous and don’t really add anything that I would want to do.

    -Josh Schenk

  7. Christopher Aska Toda
    May 3, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    The smartwatch was an interesting device for me. Being my first smartwatch, I was excited and surprised to what kind of things it could do. It was pretty much a small android phone on my watch but with lesser functionality than the phone. The watch delivered pretty well, and was able to be used at its potential. The apps were useful and I could get around using it to help me in my daily routines. It would give me fast access and notifications from and to my phone so that I won’t have to take out my phone to check every time when I have the watch right in front of me. Whenever I would receive messages or updates from my phone I would receive it right away on my watch. There were limited apps that could be used directly on the watch and can only be accessed by opening it on the phone, which I think might be the downside. However, since it’s a new technology, more apps and tools would arise and will be made for the watch as technology progresses.

    As most comments mentioned here, I also thought the watch was a bit big for a watch or at least to be comfortable to wear around the wrist. Being aware that such small device being worn on the wrist and having many functionalities with recent technologies is impressive but as a watch, it seemed to almost lack the purpose of having it comfortably on the wrist for portability.

    I had high expectations on it and this doesn’t mean it didn’t meet my expectations but just not as high. I was expecting to do more stuff on the watch itself but most of the apps in it, besides the killer apps, were mostly activities that could be done on the phone and was limited to be done on the watch. For example, this might be a possible modification in the future but I was expecting to open all my messages on it, it being from Facebook messenger or email, I want to see the whole content of the message but I had a hard time reading through the notification to read the messages. I was also expecting and was quite disappointed that I couldn’t type or write on it but just speak into it to send messages. Being aware that the screen is very small for actually typing on it but was expecting some sort of in-built mini-keyboard to type in. This might be debatable for some because people with thick or fat fingers would find it difficult.

    Hence, which brings to me to the conclusion that I can do most things on the phone and I’d rather get on the phone to do activities, and important stuff rather than using the smartwatch for any basic activities or even reading notifications or messages because it’s become a habit for me to take out my phone out of my pocket each time and check at the notifications without it being a lot of work. Even though I can definitely see the smartwatch to have more potential in the future but I think the technology or advanced features are not there yet, and can be improved for better usability or utility and efficiency.

  8. Stephanie Marin
    May 4, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I can understand were the initial appeal of the smartwatch comes from but using one in my daily life turned out to be much more awkward and unnatural than expected. I wear a regular watch on occasion but even when I do I usually still reach for my smartphone when checking the time because that is how I normally check the time. Since apps have come into being, they have been used on larger screens held directly in front of the user who usually uses both hands. Using the watch while it was strapped onto my arm was very uncomfortable when doing so for longer than a quick check of something. A lot of the apps available for the watch have functions that would require interactions taking up longer periods of time. This, combined with the already very small screen, made longer interactions distractingly uncomfortable. Two of the apps I tried to use on the watch were games. I play a lot of games on my smartphone while waiting in my daily life and was curious to see how that would translate onto a smartwatch. One game seemed to be completely unplayable due to the small size of the object I was supposed to control with my fingers and I gave up on it very quickly. The other game, Solitaire, ended up being the app I interacted with the most. But it must be noted that almost every time I played, I would take the watch off halfway through and use the screen with both hands as I do with my phone.

    Since the watch seemed to not work well with longer interactions, the other apps I used focused on quick checking of information. I tried to use a weather app but unfortunately the two I tried were never able to work on the device. I check the weather several times a day and I thought it was something that would be perfect for using on the watch as checking the weather usually involves just checking and temperature and short-term forecast. I would be able to just check without needing to get on my phone or laptop for further information, similar to checking the time or date.

    As I was unable to get a weather app to work, I focused on using the fitness app. I used this app mostly for checking my heart rate. It worked fairly well and fitness has been found to be a genre suited for wearable devices. However, because it is so well suited for wearables, there are other wearables that focus solely on fitness that seem to work much more naturally. I think that this element of narrowing a wearable’s focus makes interaction with the device more natural since it’s purpose is more concrete. I can’t say that the fitness apps on the smartwatch are better than other wearable fitness devices and if I were to purchase one of the two, I would go with the latter.

    I did not use any social media while using the smartwatch but this may because I only used it for a week, as Professor McCrickard mentioned. Even so, I can’t see that a smartwatch would be better than other devices for using most social media. The one area where wearables may be useful is social media that uses few words and is focused more on very recent developments, such as Twitter. Other social media, such as Facebook or Instagram or dating apps are much more suited for phones or laptops due to their use of pictures or messaging. A smartwatch may be useful for alerting a user of a message arrival or update so they can be alerted to use their phone or laptop, but I can’t see how that would be that much faster than the notifications I already get on my phone Additionally, I have seen other devices in the past such as bracelets or pens that will light an LED light to alert the user of a notification such as a text message.

    I think that, as of now, the intelligence of the smartwatch is at a weird halfway point where it’s not as good as smartphones and laptops for most of the ways people use technology in their daily lives but too smart for simpler functions that it is more suited for. I think that if the smartwatch could be improved in the future to somehow be able to display larger images like using a hologram for videos, pictures, and virtual keyboards it would become useful. I also think it would be well suited for hands-free voice communication like phone calls or video calls if the screen were made larger. All in all, it’s not useful enough to rationalize spending the money on it now.

  9. May 4, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I divided up the comments from the spreadsheet into large groups with some sort of commonality, for example, comments related to the screen or buttons, the physical strap, cost of the device, battery life, etc. One of the most interesting groups that I found was comments relating to the place of smartwatch technology in current and future society. Some fragments such as “incomplete technology” or “not developed enough” summed up the general consensus about it: for some reason or another, smartwatch technology isn’t quite there yet.

    I think this is one of the biggest problems in early adoption of new technology. It might be new and shiny, but the kinks aren’t ironed out yet and the software definitely needs to catch up. I believe that it has a market for people who like having the notifications, but until the price point comes down, most casual users won’t be making the purchase. For example, I enjoyed my time with the watch once I found apps that were useful for me in my life, but would never buy one for myself because I cannot afford one and think it’s too frivolous.

    That being said, early adopters do a lot of good. They help drive down costs, and get everyone around them excited about technology. Companies love them because they help to spread and promote their product organically. I think that for the case of smartwatches, based on these early responses, the technology is in its earliest stages and has a long way to go before everyone you know is wearing one. My personal prediction is that when the price comes down, or if they become part of smartphone packages, like when you buy a data plan, then most Android apps will have smartwatch functionality and it will be a lot more useful in everyday life.

  10. Scott Shumway
    May 4, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    The first thing I noticed when reviewing the spreadsheet was the averages for people that wear watches, and people that wear a smart watch. The fact that less than half the class wore any type of watch makes sense when analyzing the collection of student responses. From reading the responses, it seems to me that most students didn’t find much use for a smart watch. The one’s that did enjoy using the watch seemed only mildy amused. Only one comment stood out to me in a way that conveyed more than mild enjoyment of the experience.

    So why such a lackluster response to using a smartwatch? I am not entirely sure. Maybe smart watches will never take off, but at least for now, my guess would be that the functionality is just not there yet. Maybe it never will be, at least in a meaningful way. My opininon, similar to that of several comments that I read, is why would I need a smartwatch when I already have a phone? Sure, the watch could serve as a useful visual medium for displaying notifications, but am I really so lazy that I can’t slip my phone out of my pocket and look at it when I feel a vibration. Perhaps when, and if a “killer” smart watch app is created, and assuming others follow, smart watches will have a more broad appeal. Only time will tell.

  11. Adam Ladd
    May 7, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Hey Dr. McCrickard,
    I decided to separate the comments out into android, ios, and pebble comments because they are such vastly different devices. Though android and ios have their similarities, people (myself included) will always be biased to their specific devices so I think they are better looked at on their own.

    To start with Android: The reviews were…not great. One of the main complaints I kept seeing was how uncomfortable it felt and how large it was on the wrist. But at the same time many did not like how small the screen was. I think a big issue with the comfort was the fact that less than %40 of the users wore any type of watch regularly. I felt the exact same way, I have never worn a watch in my life and it just felt really strange having something there. The fact that many people thought the screen was small makes sense. As phones keep getting bigger and bigger this is a huge jump in the opposite direction. It would definitely take more than a couple weeks to get used to using something of this size. Another comment that kept popping up was that the fitness parts of the watch seemed subpar. This surprised me a lot. I felt when the watch was coming out that fitness was going to be a major selling point. But if people are saying it is buggy and inaccurate, clearly the technology isn’t there yet. Then there were many comments of “useless” or “limited”. This I feel goes back to the last point. Until the technology and apps get to the point where it is for the phones people are always going to be disappointed. Based off these reviews I feel that though the watch is convenient and fun to have, the technology hasn’t caught up enough to be worth the price point.

    Next up is the Apple watch: Sadly there were only 6 reviews for the Apple watch, but one of them was my own so I had a good understanding of where the others were coming from. The main thing people didn’t like about it was the lack of ability to type. While I agree with them that it was very annoying, I’m not sure of a good solution to that when the screen is the size of a wheat thin. Something I saw with these reviews that I didn’t with the Android ones was that the UI was generally pleasant and it had the cool factor to it. That’s pretty typical for any Apple product and I agree that they hit their mark on that part of the watch. Sadly though people still found it to be limited which it was. It all goes back to the technology and apps which just aren’t up to our standards that we’ve gotten used to from smart phones.

    Last up is the Pebble Watch: One thing I noticed that was different was the pebble watch was people used it more to play games than with android or apple. I’m not sure if it had to do with the lack of available apps or that it was just simple to play on it. I feel like with no touch screen the games wouldn’t be as in depth so mostly they would be used as a distraction. Users really seemed to find this watch ugly. I have never worn one, but it must really not be good looking if people felt that much hate towards it. The lack of touchscreen was another sore spot for users. They seemed to find this watch as a very low end version compared to the other two and didn’t like that about it. As with the other watches, users found this one to have no real usefulness over their phones and couldn’t see it being worth the money.

    In the end I really wasn’t surprised reading these reviews. They all had the same basic theme. While the watches are cool to have, they don’t really serve a huge purpose right now. I think as technology improves and more apps are developed they could become a bigger part of our culture, but that just isn’t the case right now.

  12. Darius Vallejo
    May 9, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    I’ve never really been one for watches. I’d stopped wearing them entirely by middle school, and even before that only wore them because my parents had bought them for me. The one time I can actually recall being excited about wearing a watch was when I’d bought a calculator watch thinking it would come in handy at school. Unfortunately, the thing made an obnoxiously loud beeping noise every time a button was pressed, which made it too annoying to use. I sort of feel the same way towards smart watches.

    I suppose the main problem that I have with smart watches in general is that I don’t see a use for them. Many of the things you can do on the watch you can do on a phone. Even worse, many app experiences are better on the phone, games in particular. In some cases, the smart watch equivalent of an app, Spotify for example, are lacking features most would consider basic like scrolling through track lists. Notifications of texts and emails received show up on the smart watch, but there’s no way to reply, meaning you’ll probably end up using a phone to respond anyway. These problems would be mitigated if you could use the smartwatch independently of a phone, but you can’t. You have to pair the smart watch with a phone in order to even use it in the first place, meaning more often than not you’ll end up carry both of them around anyway. So why bother having it at all?

    One of the more useful features of the smart watch is the inclusion of certain sensor technology, like heart rate monitors and GPS. But again, body sensor wearables have become common place nowadays, often times in cheaper and less noticeable and intrusive form factors, and GPS has likewise become standard in cell phones.

    I will concede that there may definitely be some use for smartwatches in the near future. Any sort of impressive processing power in a small form factor has the potential for applicability. But unfortunately, trying to develop applications for wearables isn’t the smoothest process. There’s actually no way to test a wearable app you’ve been developing without a physical compatible phone, even though the app is installed on the wearable via Bluetooth, another common technology. No wearables, as far as I know, have any sort of physical port through which the watch can be connected to a computer to transfer files.

    The things that the smart watch, as it is now, can do are limited at best in my opinion, and the things it can do it doesn’t do very well. Notifications that are dismissed will constantly pop back up, the device itself is prone to freezing, and even the very purpose of the original device it was based on, telling time, can be accomplished by the phone in your pocket that you’ll be carrying around anyway. It is true, however, that ever since I had heard of the concept of the smart watch I was biased against it. Even when I got a chance to use one for myself, I only bothered trying new apps on it for about an afternoon before losing interest. However, I myself have only ever seen people wearing smart watches, but never using them. The smart watch has not found that ubiquitous place in our lives that cell phones have, though perhaps it is only a matter of time.

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