Smartwatches, or variations of the theme of wearable wireless connected devices, have been the dream of man-boys everywhere where since about the time Chester Gould introduced a 2-Way Wrist Radio into Dick Tracy’s comic strip life back in 1946. One day, the future promised that we would have jetpacks, flying cars, and robotic personal assistants, not to mention wearable communication devices that would allow us to conduct a phone call anytime and anywhere, using simple body gestures to navigate and command them.
As of last week, with the announcement of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch, the dream of practical wearable tech became a serious reality… but I’m not swayed. Here are my top five reasons I don’t want a smartwatch of any sort, let alone the Galaxy Gear.
5. The Practical Aspect Of Wearability
Let’s face it, we live in a world of different strokes for different folks. Some of us love wearing jewelry, while some some of us cringe at the mere thought of having baubles on our body and skin. For some folks, wearing something on the wrist is simply not practical due to lifestyle. I can attest to not being particularly fond of wristwatches for those reasons alone, favoring pocket watches for fashion, and for the last decade or so, using my current smartphone for basic timekeeping. Nevertheless, the foundation for my distaste toward watches is that I simply have small wrists. I don’t wear men’s watches because, for the last several years, they’ve gotten bigger and bigger.
Samsung’s device is just as ginormous as any men’s watch from my perspective, and I gather the wristband will be just awful. Wristwatch bands should fit loose, but again, because of small wrists (damn you genetics!) I tended to wear them tighter when I did wear them… and the sweat, smell and odd skin conditions that would sometimes arise made me swear off wristwear altogether.
4. The Practical Aspect Of Breakability
Wristwatches, by their very definition are worn on the wrist, one of the worst places for impactful events throughout a normal day. Think about it… how many times might you slam your wrist against an immovable object, whether at home or in the office, on a daily basis? Most contemporary watches for men and women are pretty resilient considering they’re made up of delicate clockwork gears or circuitry with a glass covering. Even those pretty disposable plastic watches can get pretty beat up over time. Add to that the bête noire of any electronic device– liquid — and factor in how many times your wrist is near a sink when washing hands, or out in the rain, or on a table as spilled liquid comes rushing near it. As someone who’s dunked their fair share of cell phones into sinks and toilets, I’m rather leery of a $300 wrist computer getting utterly destroyed by the merest brush with moisture. Though many mobile device manufacturers have taken a more waterproof approach to their gadgets (and third-party companies have found a profitable business in helping you avoid wet gear), I’m of the opinion that the wrist is simply a bad place for a mobile computing device… I prefer mine safely in my pocket, though there are those that might say, that’s as worse a place as any for today’s mobile technology.
3. The Dork Factor
I think Google Glass is pretty damn neat and will probably become a truly useful companion to the human body as a real, useful heads-up-display. However, it has one hurdle it must clearly overcome, and that’s the dork factor. Just wearing the thing is enough to get some folks shaking their heads and chuckling at the end-user… heck, I know folks that still think a fashionable Bluetooth Jawbone is too dorky for their exasperated words. The Samsung Galaxy Gear and other smartwatches that have previously hit the market, like Pebble, Cookoo, Kreyos, all provide that gee-whiz-neato factor, sure, but they’re just as dorky. For instance, the Galaxy Gear is gesture specific. You can lift your wrist to your ear to answer a call or wake the device from sleep. Imagine folks doing this at a party or in a crowd, and I for one can’t help but be that chucklehead who thinks it looks rather stupid, like a parody of what the future might bring us. For some, like me, it’ll be hard getting over that particular hurdle… and I doubt that other companies readying their own smartwatches, like Google and Apple, will be able to overcome that aspect of wearable tech.
2. Redundant Gadgetry
My smartphone’s clock does enough of the things an old digital watch used to do to make a competing, yet wearable, device superfluous. Douglas Adams has nothing on me… I turned my back on digital watches long ago and much prefer the screen size and mobility of iPhone 4 or 5 to the small screen of a smartwatch. Now, granted, most smartwatches being marketed are not necessarily stand-alone devices. This is most certainly true for the Samsung Galaxy Gear, as it’s made to be a companion device for its new line of Galaxy note devices such as the Galaxy Note 3 (one of those large clunky smartphones known as phablets… I call such devices the Two-Handed Phone) and the Galaxy Note 10.1. My perfect size mobile screen is one that I can easily hold in my hand, navigate with my thumb, and stow away in my pocket. My iPhone satisfies these needs (just as many Android-based phones would), and so I feel that having a piece of wearable tech, even if it in theory allows me easier access to my email, texts, phone calls, etc., is simply a redundancy I don’t need. Smartwatches seem like much more a superfluous item while the smartphone still reigns supreme.
1. Does Android Dream Of Electric Fudgsicles?
Android for me is a fractured fairytale of what a superb mobile OS could be… but its greatest asset is its biggest failing in my opinion, and that’s the open source nature of its code, the heart and soul of any computer. Due to the open source code anyone can take a whack at it and release something that’s either amazing or something out of Frankenstein’s lab. Google attempts to keep it solid with releases named for sweet confections, but I’m all but confused as to what smartphone handset (among the myriad released almost weekly be Samsung, HTC, LG, and the other handset manufacturers) works with which version of their OS… should it be a Jelly Bean (and which version of that!) or Ice Cream Sandwich or Froot Loops, or is there a certain hack I need, (not to mention what additions the handset maker might have added to the OS) I don’t know, and don’t care. I see the same thing happening with smartwatches, and though I willingly play within Apple’s fascist little walled-garden, it seems to me that the myriad of Android-based smartwatches that will hit the streets will only make the wildly fragmented nature of Android worse for users who just want the damn thing to work without having to figure out if Kit Kat Extra Crispy works with the device they recently purchased.
[box_light]Regardless of those five reasons not to buy a smartwatch, the future of wearable tech looks bright for companies that are now rolling out such devices. With its 320 x 320 resolution, 1.63-inch screen, a 1.9 megapixel camera embedded in the wristband, a speaker and noise-cancelling microphone for voice communications implanted in the wristband’s buckle, and a variety of contemporary colors to fit basic fashion needs, Samsung Galaxy Gear might appeal to some folks that don’t mind wearing their tech on their wrist.[/box_light]
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.