back to article Wearable hybrids prove the bloated smartwatch is one of Silly Valley's biggest mistakes

Imagine if Intel had decided in the 1980s that all of its CPUs henceforth would have a vast parallel processing unit worthy of a Cray supercomputer, integrated into every chip. This would quadruple the price of an Intel microprocessor, but "future-proof" its PCs. Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatch And lo, Qualcomm hath declared that …

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  1. MooseMonkey

    Er, seemsd to have missed....

    Garmin watches and other watches like Fitbit thingies have been ticking along for years with tracking and smart apps. Nice advert for whatever that new thing was though.

    1. Lusty Silver badge

      Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

      +1 Garmin have just released a Fenix 5 Plus costing ~£1000 and even that is selling well. After Apple Garmin is probably the largest install base of smart watches, and they aren't dumbed down smart watches either so clearly there is a market here or the little guy couldn't be charging 3x what Apple are. Also my Fenix 5 battery lasts for weeks!

      1. NightFox

        Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

        It's actually £600 which is quite a way off ~£1000 (even extras like sapphire 'glass' only pushes it up a bit), but I take your point. And don't get me going about the 5+ battery life, although hopefully it's a firmware issue.

        1. Sam Jelfs

          Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

          I think the Fenix 5+ is aimed at a very different market than things like the ticwatch though. I have an older fenix3, and when it finally dies on me the 5+ will be the first choice I think (depending on what they have brought out by then, or if suunto ever make something decent)

        2. Lusty Silver badge

          Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

          "It's actually £600 which is quite a way off ~£1000 "

          The Ti one is nearly £1000. The point was that people are happily paying this over and above an Apple watch because the Garmin is a useful device that has a purpose. Garmin have sold Fenix watches in the millions, and many other models in large numbers too. That's not a failed category of device.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

        "Also my Fenix 5 battery lasts for weeks!"

        OTOH, the battery in my 10 year old $12.95 Timex watch lasts about 5 years. Of course, it only tells time, but that's all I want it for. (Well OK, I have been known to use it as a VERY light duty hammer, but it doesn't need a battery for that).

      3. Wibble

        Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

        Garmin Descent is £1000 or £1300 if you want the cock-watch metal strap.

        They've found that niche by going after rich wannabe divers. So a specialism in the sea of generics.

    2. Sir Bignose

      Re: Er, seemsd to have missed....

      Suunto have been doing smart enough watches for long time (since 2003)

  2. jpo234

    I have a Fossil Q Explorist and like it. For me the most useful feature is the Google Notes app. It's really nice to have the shopping list on my wrist. It's much easier to access than on the phone.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      @jpo234

      I have my shopping list on a piece of paper, and cross things out when picked off teh shelf.

      Low tech solution is fine!

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        @tiggity.

        I find writing on and stuffing a piece of paper in my pocket with a pencil the most efficient way to shop.

        In the supermarket holding my smart phone, negotiating to the notes app and then trying to delete as I fill my needs is not easy while pushing a trolley, however, holding a bit of scrunched up paper and pencil with the steering hand while loading with the other is easy and striking through each thing on the list with the pencil is faster and simpler.

        Low tech is sometimes a higher order of thinking.

        1. Oflife
          Stop

          Galaxy Note is where it's at!

          I have mine mounted on the trolley using the clipboards they sometimes include, or it rests on my pile of shopping bags and I tick off each item as I plonk it in the trolley. I use web app based software we developed. PiCosm.com. (Launching to you lot later in the year. Does it all, reliably.)

          1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

            Re: I use web app based software

            No mobile signal in our local Tesco. Local app or pen & paper also have reduced data slurpage risks (probably.) Still, nice ad comrade.

        2. arthoss

          Peasant, you have the shopping list on your wrist, every item you tap to tick disappears eventually - on the apple watch. It's easier and faster when you have two bags in each hand than using sticks and stones to make a fire.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        I have my shopping list on a piece of paper, and cross things out when picked off teh shelf.

        I write my list of items out in the order I know I will find them as I walk through the shop. Taking a pencil with me is an unconscionable extravagance!

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          Joke

          Can't you just send the wife out to do the shopping?!

          All my best

          Sid the sexist.

          1. David Woodhead

            Can't you just send the wife out to do the shopping?!

            All my best

            Sid the sexist.

            If you're referring to the one from Viz, I don't think Sid is going to find a wife any day soon.

        2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Taking a pencil with me is an unconscionable extravagance!

          Do you favour a spike over a chair?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: spike

            I see what you did there, Cap'n.

            Ebeer for you.

            Phone-post, so no icon. 8o(

        3. IsJustabloke Silver badge
          Meh

          yes...

          except that if your supermarket of choice is anything like mine , they swap things around on a regular basis for that very reason.

          I don't use a shopping list always found them more hassle that they're worth.

      3. I&I

        D’oh

        I keep forgetting to buy paper...

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: D’oh

          I reuse envelopes from (mostly) junk mail, means it was used for something useful at least once...

        2. Sureo

          Re: D’oh

          Where I live the real estate agents drop notepads off regularly so I have a stack piled up.

          1. DanceMan

            Re: real estate agents drop notepads off regularly

            You live in Vancouver too?

      4. vtcodger Silver badge

        "I have my shopping list on a piece of paper, and cross things out when picked off teh shelf."

        Indeed. A decade ago, I had a eeePC in the kitchen so that people could call up recipes, play music, and add to the shipping list. There was a printer on the shelf above to print recipes and shopping lists.

        Problem is that no one used it but me, and I didn't use it all that much (and mostly for music)

        Nowadays, the eeePC and printer are gone. Recipes are in a notebook and the shopping list is on a notepad hanging on the fridge next to a pencil holder.

        1. cray74 Silver badge

          and the shopping list is on a notepad hanging on the fridge

          I only went to a list-making app (Note Everything) on my phone after years of repeatedly forgetting my handwritten grocery list. I almost never forget my phone but my grocery list stayed at home more often than not.

      5. skalamanga

        I frequently write my shopping list while driving home from work. Since it's illegal to touch my phone while driving, and writing with a pencil and paper is frowned upon while behind the wheel, adding things using my smartwatch is a solution I find worth while.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          skalamanga

          In the UK? The charge is driving without due care and attention. Unless you kill someone. Then it's causing death by dangerous driving.

    2. Dabooka Silver badge

      Shopping lists?

      Am I really the only one that doesn't need a list when I go out, and instead just live with the consequences when I get home and the discoveries of The Forgotten© are made?

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Shopping lists?

        "

        Am I really the only one that doesn't need a list when I go out, and instead just live with the consequences when I get home and the discoveries of The Forgotten© are made?

        "

        My normal method is, "Shit, I'm out of shampoo!" Get out of shower, dry, dress, go to supermarket. Come home with 5 carrier bags of stuff. Put away. Get undressed, enter shower. "Shit! Forgot to buy shampoo!"

      2. A. Coatsworth
        Facepalm

        Re: Shopping lists?

        I usually check the fridge and the kitchen to see what I need to buy, and write it down in a list so I don't forget. I go to the supermarket and promptly discover I forgot to bring the damned list with me, so I have to buy from memory.

        Once I come back home, I check the list (which has been waiting for me in the kitchen counter he whole time) only to find out how many important items I forgot to buy, and how much unneeded crap I did buy.

        A couple of weeks later, I repeat the whole process

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shopping lists?

          I have a small magnetic whiteboard on the fridge door. Through the week, as we run out of things or decide we need stuff for a recipe, etc we write on the whiteboard. When i go shopping I take a photo of the list on my phone. I find I can mentally "tick things off" as I buy them, with a last look at the phone at the end to check I haven't forgotten anything.

          If anyone complains that I didn't get "x", then they get the reply "did you put it on the list?". Of course I have the photo as proof.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Shopping lists?

            Way back when Mobile phones were a novelty, my wife phoned and asked me to pop into the local shop on the way home. I couldn't write a list but I can (well I could) remember arbitrarily long lists (not a brainiac but it's a party trick I learned).

            I had the feeling I had forgotten one of the nearly 40 items as the conveyor rolled. But I got home and my wife was hugely impressed as she ticked off every item on her list.

            Sometime later, she looked out of the window and asked me where the car was. It was, of course, locked in the car park of the local shop.

          2. jelabarre59 Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Shopping lists?

            I have a small magnetic whiteboard on the fridge door. Through the week, as we run out of things or decide we need stuff for a recipe, etc we write on the whiteboard. When i go shopping I take a photo of the list on my phone. I find I can mentally "tick things off" as I buy them, with a last look at the phone at the end to check I haven't forgotten anything.

            You should load Gimp or some other image editor on the phone, then you could load the image into the editor and cross-off items as you pick them up.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Shopping lists?

              I find the back of an old envelope works quite well, too.

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Shopping lists?

              jelabarre59

              Erm, if the whiteboard is small and magnetic they could just use the low-tech option and take it with. Just a thought. Coat with whiteboard in pocket.

  3. Edwin

    Smart as a feature?

    I think the Ticwatch will work for people who really want to add a smart device to their wrist, but many people already have one - think devices like Suunto, Polar, Garmin and Fitbit. These are showing increasing signs of smartness, adding smart features (and better looks) to a device that is already very capable in terms of hardware capabilities (HR and GPS sensors, touch screens, etc).

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well done Mr O

    A whole article on wearables and not one mention of that fruity company that this site just loves to slag off.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Well done Mr O

      Erm....

      So too did Apple, which revived the Watch by adding waterproofing – essential for swimming and outdoors activity – in its second-generation watch.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well done Mr O

      Your reading it wrong.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Well done Mr O

      It doesn't fit with the story to mention Apple because they've sold tens of millions of expensive smartwatches.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Well done Mr O

        The Apple Watch is equivalent in size to a Fortune 300 company - i.e. Netflix or eBay - and outsells the entire Swiss watch industry. In units, probably not revenue depending on the industry's exact Swatch vs Rolex sales mix...

        I would agree it is a solution looking for a problem, but enough people have identified a problem its a solution for (even if the problem was "I want to spend money on something I don't really need") that Apple has made a business out of it that's huge by almost any measure. It just doesn't seem like it because it is dwarfed by Apple's iPhone business.

  5. DrXym Silver badge

    Smart watches should be simple

    Produce a watch which lasts at least month on a charge, tells the time from an always-on, glare-free screen, doesn't requiring tethering to a proprietary app, phone operating system or app store / cloud service and we might be getting somewhere.

    That doesn't prevent the watch from linking to a phone and streaming songs or showing messages / reminders over bluetooth. But the device itself itself should operate independently of the phone and when it does interact it should be over standardised profiles.

    That's a smart watch.

    1. david bates

      Re: Smart watches should be simple

      That's pretty much a Pebble... Until fitbit killed it.

      Mind you they've killed it nicely and left it open for other people to offer support.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Smart watches should be simple

        I might have been interested in the Pebble but they looked so ugly and TBH they still had issues with proprietariness which is why when the store went they had their own issues.

        When you think about it why are smart watches tethered to a specific phone, phone operating system or infrastructure at all. It shouldn't be hard to devise a number of open protocols that are able to cover 95% of the things people want to do in a smart watch - date & time config, audio / music streaming with trick play, timers/events/notifications, biometrics, voice control & input, location / directions, simple HTML+JS app framework.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Smart watches should be simple

      DrXym,

      I'm not sure about that. I think the smartest design decision with smart wearables is to make them as dumb as you can get away with. You've already got a highly capable mobile computer within very short range (i.e. the phone) and it seems to me that the more work you can dump off on that, the better.

      The downside of that is that you need the phone OSes to have common protocols and Apple and Google won't cooperate with that. Apple are far more restrictive of what apps are allowed to do too, so you may face problems with compatibility there. I seem to remember that my brother's Pebble did less because he had an iPhone than if he'd used an Android.

      On the other hand, I do think some of the battery life concerns are over-played. Once battery life is longer than a weekend, it ought to be fine. If you're going away for longer, you're going to be taking chargers anyway - and you're likely to forget to charge a weekly/monthly watch and so run out of batteries frequently anyway. As most people take their watches off at night, surely you just need a nice little charging solution for the bedside table that can also charge your phone - and it'll soon become habit. We're all used to charging our smartphones every night after all? Most of us choose the flexibility of the smartphone over the long battery life of the dumb one.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Smart watches should be simple

        Pebble was excellent and as a "solution looking for a problem" I found it really useful. The did the obvious thing and made a watch with always on sunlight visibility. It ended the sound of a ringtone and released me from having to dig round in pockets to check a notification, replacing that action with a 1 second glance.

        Fitbit killed it, then brought back something similar called the Versa at triple the price of the Pebble Time.

        Apple sold almost 20 million expensive watches in 2017 alone. Some big name traditional timepiece makers had to sit up and take notice at that. Certain to be more cash into Apple's coffers and absolutely not a mistake for their business.

      2. doublelayer

        Re: Smart watches should be simple

        For most use cases, you will not be fine with a weekend's battery life. For one thing, anything that builds a battery with the goal of it lasting a weekend will have a battery that really works for twenty hours. If you're going to build a battery for a weekend, don't accept it until it lasts a week in testing. Some watches are capable of tracking sleep schedules, so you don't charge it at night. Useless feature? Fine. How about that watches can use their vibration feature as an alarm. A silent one that doesn't wake up people who sleep nearby, especially if you're a sound sleeper. Incidentally, if you like that idea, I recommend the Xiaomi MiBand 2 (max $20) with the gadgetbridge app from fdroid.

        There are a lot of convenient things a smartwatch could do that would reasonably use up battery and make a month-long life untenable. However, if your users also have a smartphone that does a lot of that, there has to be some discussion as to what things the watch can leave to the phone in the interest of having a good battery life and a good set of features. Telling the time is critical. Most people who buy these watches want notifications. Do they use the watch apps? Do they reply to messages with the watch? Do they really need the watch to connect to cell towers, or would having a WiFi chip that is turned off unless requested be good enough for emergencies like my phone died?

        It's not just cost, although that's a problem too, but the fact that the more features nobody wants are shoved into the thing, the slower it runs and the faster it dies. You probably wouldn't buy a laptop that I built where it has three hours battery life, but it also has processors of many different types so you can look at how your code runs on each different platform without leaving the interface. And also it has two independent bluetooth interfaces, making it possible to connect to more devices and turn your computer into a bluetooth peripheral that still has connectivity as a host itself. These features, while you could probably think of a way to use them, aren't in demand. The cost of them, less battery life and a more expensive computer, don't justify it for you.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        overnight charging

        "As most people take their watches off at night, surely you just need a nice little charging solution for the bedside table that can also charge your phone"

        Very true. Only downside is that overnight charging eliminates the ability to monitor and analyze your sleep. Anyone have any data on how much that matters to smartwatch users? I know that was one of the nifty smart device features people were touting when smart watches started showing up.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: overnight charging

          In the morning the Mrs. will sometimes ask how I slept. I usually don't know, because I was asleep. If I know the answer it's because I didn't sleep so good ( fortunately rarely). I also know what time I went to bed and what time it is when I wake up ( hint, alarm clock next to bed). Why would I need to wear a watch to tell me these things.

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