Will 2013 be the year of the smart watch that doesn’t suck?

Daniel Bader

December 28, 2012 4:09 pm

What’s interesting about the Pebble E-Paper Watch is that is isn’t the first computer we’ve worn on our wrists. In fact, the venerable calculator watch, which was still the rage (in the A/V department) when I went to high school, was the first indication that humans feel comfortable interacting with their forearms (don’t go there).

To be sure, there were signs before that, too. The chronograph is a great example of the simple and effective evolution of the wristwatch. As a child, I would take my father’s Seiko and start the timer, reset it, start it again. Its rhythm was hypnotic; its influence profound.

Today, whenever I meet a watch lover, he or she usually falls into one of two categories. The first is the obstinate refuser, the individual who will never give up his timepiece — it was his father’s, his grandfather’s; it has sentimental value. The second is the enthusiast. This person loves watches because they are beautiful; they also buck the trend that many of us have followed, often without realizing it. Good watches — those that keep accurate time and are lovingly made by hand by someone who, in my dreams, looks like my grandfather with a slightly curlier moustache — are expensive, and require regular maintenance, care and attention. Most people don’t want to deal with that. Most people, including me, have moved on.

The smartphone is the best watch ever made. It keeps accurate time, far more so than any $10 knockoff Timex; it is a timer, an alarm (with music!), a world clock. It is always with us, even when we forget to strap on our Swatch in the morning, and — barring any battery failures — it is usually reliable.

But 2013 may be the year the watch makes a comeback. Just as the smartphone replaced the feature phone, the eReader replaced the book, the MP3 player replaced the CD, the ____ replaced the ____, so too does it look like the smart watch will soon replace the watch.

Back in April, a group of engineers who originated in Waterloo, Ontario, put the Pebble E-Paper Smart Watch on Kickstarter. Though an unlikely proposition at the time — a Bluetooth-enabled watch thin enough to be mistaken for a Skagen, light enough to be forgotten, and with a screen that kill the battery in six hours. It blasted through its $100,000 target in a few hours; it ended up with $10 million and nearly 70,000 backers.

Since then, the team has worked furiously to take a prototype and scale its manufacturing to company-sized proportions. And, though there have been numerous delays the Pebble’s release is assured, and it is imminent. The team designed and re-designed the internals, added to the Android and iOS SDKs and, most propitiously of all, ensured a viable platform for years to come.

Recently, it has been rumoured that Apple is working with Intel to bring a smart watch to the market some time in 2013. Though the rumour is unsubstantiated — as are all Apple products until they’re announced — it bears taking seriously for a couple of reasons. Apple recently redesigned its iPod nano, disavowing future generations of “nano watches.” It would be myopic of Apple to give up that huge potential market share; slim it down, add Bluetooth and explicit iOS API support, and you’ve got a viable and potentially profitable companion to an iPhone or iPad.

There have been some attempts at smart watches over the past couple of years, most notably the Sony SmartWatch, which had tons of potential but ended up tripping over its own Android-limited feet. Too clunky, with poor battery life and a litany of bugs, the SmartWatch never quite offered the experience users wanted.

At last year’s CES, an Italian company of the same name showed off the i’m watch, another Android-based timepiece. It too offered app integration and a “flexible” SDK that developers could plug into. But neither the SmartWatch nor the i’m watch saw the broader market, namely iOS users. That’s why Pebble has been so successful: it promised something that no one else had been able to accomplish. True iOS integration has been the proverbial Holy Grail of connected watches; decent battery life the second on the list. Pebble stands to provide both. And, at under $150, it doesn’t just appeal to the enthusiast market.

The watch, like all legacy technologies, stands to gain from the evolution of low-power communication technologies like Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. It will be interesting to see where things go after Pebble’s release and whether it, along with many prior failed attempts, stand to influence Apple’s entry into the market.

Via: Engadget

  • DroidFTW

    “Don’t go there” I lolled XD

    • Android is becoming a joke.

      Android = Junk

    • Peter Hung

      These pebble watches are ugly and useless, no one is that big of a nerd/loser that they need to read text messages on their wrists.

  • Rich

    I don’t think it could ever fully replace a phone, but I think the exercise crowd would love to be able to leave their phones / ipods at home or in a gym bag and just opt to have a smart watch that did the basics of a phone, mp3 player, and maybe even some sort of fitness app all bundled in.

    Pair that with bluetooth headphones and you’re off to a great start.

  • Slappy

    Holy crap, that’s ugly!

  • 2c

    RIP RIM!!!!! :D :D

    • sp

      RIP 2c

      ..troll

    • 2c

      Sorry, but trolling is my only form of entertainment (other than spanking the monkey) because I’m too much of a loser to meet any girls.

  • Pete

    @Rich, it does not replace a phone, it enhances it. You need to pair it to your phone. It’s like extending the phones display and some buttons to your wrist. i.e. remotley control your music, see who is calling before you answer, etc. You will need to keep the phone within bluetooth range to use it.

    @Slappy, that’s one of many colour combinations you could choose from.

    @2c,see my response to @Rich

    I ordered the black on black edition. Can’t wait to get it!

    –Pete

    • Bruce Gavin Ward

      and hence dispense with the nice 5.5″ display of the Note II, and go back to squinting at a 1″ ish square for your controls. [i think not!]

  • Dan Brook

    “…is that IT isn’t…” not “…is that is isn’t…” Mr. Bader

  • 2c

    this is a problem some one else is using my name to post RIP RIM always.

  • nely

    Can’t wait until BB10 comes out and tears things up. just to make those annoying “Rip Rim” people disappear.

  • 2c

    I like it in my bum.

  • 2c

    I am a fudge packer.

  • Hardened

    The smart-watch has been around for 5yrs now … its nothing new and in its current iteration by Sony … does NOT suck!!

    Get with the program MobileSyrup and do your full research please.

    SonyEricsson has had smart-watches in style for about 2yrs, then advanced it just a tad more but still too heavy working over bluetooth. Now the live watch by Sony interacts with widgets on your android phone: sms, mms, calls, music playback controls, features/functions etc. It’s been around for about 2yrs now.

  • Bruce Gavin Ward

    can somebody tell me why any smartPhone user would want or need a watch strapped to their arm. in all it’s clunky, sweaty, smelly, glory?

    • Gavin Burbidge

      As was said in other posts, there are times when pulling your phone out to check the time is considered a social faux pas. Pulling out your phone is considered rude. A discrete glance at your wrist however…

  • Stupid

    6 hours is decent battery life for something you’re likely to have on your wrist all day?

  • Jody Walker

    Have 2 preordered and can’t wait to Ger them.

  • Jody Walker

    Also, do some research. The pebble watch is an e-ink display and has a 7 day battery life.

  • David

    Pebble not supporting WP sucks… Gnomio looks great but don’t know if it will actually be made.

  • hahabya

    Look time something that a 10 years old kid want for the birthday – then it will under the bed after a month

  • menodumb

    Quite sure Apple is working on such a device

  • Rick Morayniss

    I bought a Strata Metawatch through kickstarter. Still a little buggy, but It does give me my mail, waether, time, and tweets.
    Lots of potential.

  • Derek

    Horrible design only a 12 year old would want strapped to their wrist or the same neckbeards that had those calculator watches.

    Also implying that it’s less rude to look at your watch compared to a phone is seriously funny. I’d love to run that past someone when we are out having dinner.

  • Anonymous

    “Smart watch”
    “Doesn’t suck”
    Pick one.