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K-State Today

February 11, 2013

Smart watches: Upcoming trend or dying fad?

Submitted by Austin Polley

Ever since James Bond demonstrated his high-tech multiuse watch specially made for him, kids and adults have dreamed of such a powerful device that could be disguised as a wristwatch. This dream device is sadly not yet a reality, but there are many companies who have attempted to manufacture different forms of smart watches. 

Smart watches could be traced all the way back to novelty watches, and toys made for kids to try to meet this dream. Things like calculator watches, watches with remotes and flashlights built in were produced. These items were never extremely high sellers, but there always seems to be a fan base that wants devices like these. Sadly, the market is far behind the dreams and wishes of this fan base. This is shown with the popularity of wristwatch holders for the iPod nano. The iPod nano was in no way made to be a watch, but the community saw the potential and made it happen themselves.

With the recent rise in smartphones and mobile operating systems, the realm of smart watches has gotten a much needed breath of life. In the past few years many companies have created some of their first smart watches. Devices like the Pebble watch, Sony Smartwatch, WiMM one, IM watch and many others show the beginning of great possibilities, it also shows how this market is in its infancy.

Currently most smart watches all must sync to a smartphone via bluetooth before they can do anything. Many won't even tell time without first syncing your device. Controlling and administrating your smart watch is usually all done from your phone as well instead of the watch itself. Battery life of the watches can range from a few days to a week depending on the device, but since most devices must be linked to your phone, your watch becomes a shiny wrist brick as soon as your phone dies and loses its most basic feature, telling time. This tethered process can make the watches much more affordable though, as it's just a portal to the larger device sitting in your pocket. This way companies don't have to spend money putting GPS chips, Wi-Fi chips and many other components in the device itself. Even though this makes the smart watch less powerful on its own, its cost savings is probably needed to get the market going. A high price tag would surely shy away many enthusiasts.

When a smart watch is linked to a working smartphone, it can be quite handy, seeing calls on your watch and being able to decline them quickly. Having text messages instantly pop up to read, and sending a quick preset message back can take seconds instead of pulling out your phone, unlocking it, typing the message, relocking your phone and cramming it back in your jeans. Many find these added benefits gimmicky, and they may have a point. I found it very useful to use the Google Authenticator app for the Sony Smartwatch; every time I needed my authentication code for log in, it was just a click away on my wrist, or changing songs playing on my phone while walking was also nice.

The smart watch concept is new to many consumers as well as manufacturers; it has a lot of great potential. With companies like Apple and Google rumored to be working on smart watch designs, we might see the full potential of these devices in the near future.

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