Baer Facts

I’ll Never Buy a Smartwatch and Neither Will You


In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about the new Samsung Galaxy Gear, a smartwatch that hopes to popularize a new consumer device category in the way the iPad did a few years ago.

Wrist Factors

I’m not a fan of this technology, as it is the answer to a question that nobody is really asking.

Evidently, a big feature of the Galaxy Gear watch (and the recent Pebble watch that was spawned on Kickstarter, and does similar stuff) is that you can answer your phone from your watch. Well guess what? I can do the same thing with a bluetooth earpiece, or with several brands of less conspicuous headphones. Also, I don’t really get that many phone calls these days, as most people know that it’s easier/faster to email me.

And….are we REALLY so lazy as a society….are we really SO #FirstWorldProblems that we cannot possibly spend the energy to reach into our pocket to grab a slim device to answer a call? Between Google Glass and this smartwatch, are we actually TRYING to make our own phalanges obsolete? What do we have against fingers, anyway?

Things Are Not What They Appear To Be

My other issue is the larger societal trend (also a total #FirstWorldProblem of the wealthy and bored) of making things do other things. Why do glasses also have to be a computer? Why does a watch also have to be a phone? Why does the molecular gastronomy movement require that we make food look and taste like other types of food, just for the sake of art?

The day I’m so lazy I can’t answer my own phone, and need a watch to check email or answer calls, is the day that I personally have jumped the technology shark.

I’m all for the march of progress, but the smartwatch is running in place.

  • fieldposition

    Say it ain’t so Jay! Call me a minimalist, but I am looking forward to the day that I don’t have to have anything in my pocket. This tech may not be perfect, but its heading the right direction for me. I look forward to the day, where I can wear contacts and a watch like this that allows me to be free from that “slim” brick in my front pocket.

    The only thing I really want to use my pockets for is cash (I’m not a Google Wallet person).

    • jaybaer

      That’s really interesting to me. You want tech to be integrated on your person, but not payments. What about just waving your wrist at a sensor to pay. Too much?

      • fieldposition

        One establishes efficiencies that improves and increases productivity for making money. I do not want or need those same efficiencies for spending money.

  • Salma Jafri

    Not everyone wears clothes with pockets :) I don’t know yet if I’d buy one, but my fingers have had it with carpal tunnel and holding smartphones, so I’d definitely consider it!

    • jaybaer

      Good point. I literally got “texting thumb” 18 months ago, and had to wear a brace. I think I’m getting old.

      • Salma Jafri

        I think I’ll hold out for a *smart* bracelet – why have one screen when you can have 4-5 going all around your wrist for different functions. One ring to manage them all …heh.

  • jdefoore

    Another point you’re missing is how these watches play into the fitness tracking ecosystem. The Gear and others will display performance data from fitness apps running on a smart phone, a real advantage for runners who don’t want to pull out their phone mid-stride.

    • Mike Handy

      I have Google Glass, I am not sold on it, seriously. The thing lacks more than it has. Can it be amazing maybe, will it replace my smart phone, no. Do i feel like it adds value outside of sparking conversation… a huge resounding no! Smart phones are nearly perfect, small enough to have with me, there when I need it not when I dont.

      • jaybaer

        Agreed, but mostly because I can’t see it! (see above)

    • jaybaer

      Indeed. My utter lack of movement is showing in my not acknowledging that use case. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Neicole Crepeau

    I’m not going to say never, but I certainly won’t be a first adopter of this technology. My Dad is eagerly awaiting their arrival. Personally, it looks like it’s going to be too bulky for me to really want to wear it around a lot. And I’m not into tracking all my bodily activities and functions, so it doesn’t have that benefit. Lastly, it’s hard for me to see how the UI is going to be good enough. It’s a smaller screen necessarily and it means working the device with one-hand. I expect it would be very useful for some tasks, but it’s hard to see it being my go-to device. In which case, I’d rather just keep my phone which is my go-to device.

    That said, I can imagine the UI getting better, imagine it integrating with other devices and the environment, and becoming more useful. Down the line, if you had your Google Glasses on and your watch, you might be all set.

    • jaybaer

      integrating with your environment, not just your phone. that’s the key, I think.

  • smorty71

    I have owned a Pebble for a couple of months now and I think you’re missing the point of that particular device just a bit. It isn’t about duplicating functions of the phone (the Samsung Galaxy Gear is another story). It is meant to be a companion device that allows you to leave your phone in your pocket and not fiddle with it constantly.

    I find it especially useful when driving. I usually have my phone in a dashboard mount running Waze and Spotify. If I get a text, it is a short glance away to my wrist (the one that is holding the steering wheel). If it is something urgent, I can call that person from the Bluetooth in the car (no need to touch the phone). If I want to change tracks on Spotify, it is 2 button presses that don’t require me to look at the watch to perform.

    It’s also great for getting notifications for things you care about, but don’t want to constantly use your phone for. Wanna know when you get comments on that snazzy Instagram #selfie you just shared? Wanna know when your phone battery is low (I guess iPhone users don’t need that since they are always low on battery… Hey-O!)? Wanna know when your internet-connected garage door opens (Yeah, I’m that kinda nerd)?

    I also love the potential of the watch to work in conjunction with other connected devices like the Lockitron so you can unlock your door just by walking up to it.

    I agree that the Galaxy Gear is a bit of overkill. I think the Pebble has hit a good sweet spot for the first generation of smartwatch. Of course, our usage patterns will likely change as more of these devices emerge.

    • jaybaer

      I really like the idea of the watch being an RFID, and opening doors, etc. Nice. Although I don’t really need a watch for that, just a sensor in my clothing, or my glasses, or on my keys. But maybe I don’t need a key then….

      On the other stuff, I like your in-car use case. But, how much of your day is spent in-car (I know you have long commutes sometimes smorty). And ultimately, almost all the things you describe, I can do with my car itself – not extra tech required.

      • smorty71

        I still think there is some utility in the smartwatch form factor. I think it will be like tablets where we didn’t know what we didn’t know. I, for one, was sure that my netbook was all I would need. Why would anyone want a tablet, I thought. There isn’t even a keyboard! :D

  • MysticSheep

    I’m decidedly “meh” on this. I see *some* value in terms of ease of use for people who make/take a lot of calls, but for me, I just don’t get it. It’s the Segway of mobile devices.

    • jaybaer

      Wait a second! I still want a Segway!

  • Jason King

    I like holding something in my hand when talking so I agree – About as useful as a chocolate fire guard. I’m usually a late adopter of technology and can’t ever see myself using one, but there are benefits I hadn’t considered until I read the comments on this post. Overall I believe that the fad will pass :)

    • jaybaer

      chocolate fire guard? I’ve been told I’m the king of marketing analogies, but that one is brand-new to me!

      • Jason King

        Get yourself over to Scotland and you’ll have plenty of analogies to take back to the States. I thought my view about the watches was old fashioned but it was good to see other professionals sharing my views :)

  • Judith Brower Fancher

    I’m afraid I agree with smorty. When I got my new car and didn’t have to pull my keys out of my purse anymore to open my car, my life improved dramatically as I’m often carrying lots of things to my car. But I’m not expecting to buy a smartwatch until it functions without carrying a paired phone.

    • jaybaer

      Bingo! If it works without the phone, maybe I can see it being useful. Otherwise, it’s 1+1 = 1.5

  • TrueCopy

    Interesting point, but I disagree. I see the SmartWatch, done right, as an incredibly useful tool. Caller ID, texts and other notifications are very, very slick on my Pebble. I’ve found the music controls to be incredibly useful. But I have no desire (or ability, with the Pebble) to make calls or answer the phone and talk through my wrist.

    The Galaxy Gear and the Pebble come from different philosophies about what a device like this needs to be, and in that case I don’t really see them as competing for the same userbase. In many ways it’s like the iPad and the Surface. Two (unfortunately) similarly marketed devices aimed at very different users with an entirely separate set of expectations.

    • jaybaer

      Very interesting perspective about Gear and Pebble tackling different market segments. Thanks for the comment!

  • Philippe Gaboury

    The one thing that I definitely do not want to see come about are transparent screens. They look cool in movies because they allow the viewers to see the characters face as well as the contents they’re viewing but are nonsensical in real-life. Why on earth would I want to stare at my fingers or my lap as I check the news? And Augmented Reality can be done so much better through a camera than through a window that does not know where you’re standing…

    • jaybaer

      Only time I see that tech being pretty useful today is heads-up displays in cars and planes. But then, other people aren’t interacting with that screen, just you.

      • Marty Thompson

        What happens when the entire vehicle has been built around a heads up display?

        • Philippe Gaboury

          In order to get a great HUD going, you need to know where the users eyes are so it can only ever truly work with head tracking. This is why most jet fighter pilots get their information from the helmet rather than the cockpit window. The required sensitivity for car might be much less and allow for some variation in the height of the driver so that’s all well and fine. But I’m seeing all these companies showcasing transparent phones or laptops in tradeshows and I really couldn’t care less about those products.

          • Kirk_Fetzer

            Wondering if transparent phones would help folks not walk into me while they walk-n-text down the sidewalk.

    • Kirk_Fetzer

      I don’t need to see my shoes either Philippe, but I work in the aviation industry and heads-up displays are really impressive. Having information (speed, radio station) viewable in the lower corners or along the bottom of your windshield would save a lot of looking down when driving.

  • Kirk_Fetzer

    I too am not sure I’d buy a watch, unless the price point was low enough to have me pick one up to try out. But Google Glass is another thing with a big advantage over a watch. While I don’t wear glasses and don’t want to start, Glass can see where I’m looking and a watch can’t. That’s a big advantage and can lead to a lot more information gathered about me and what I’m doing in that moment, and thus provide me a lot more ‘useful’ information tailored to that moment.

    While I don’t want to have to wear glasses, something that can track wear I’m looking is way ahead in its potential to be useful than a watch.

    • jaybaer

      Yes, I played with Google Glass for the first time this week. Big problem for me is that I’m pretty blind without my glasses. So, unless I got contact lenses, Glass is utterly useless for me.

      • Kirk_Fetzer

        I can imagine Jay. Robert Scoble of Rackspace mentioned while interviewing Mark Johnson of Zite that he’s already heard from the Glass team that they were looking into a perscription option as well as other frames.

        That wouldn’t help me with not wanting to wear glasses, but would be great for you. have fun with the Social Media Examiner summit!

  • Katherine Kotaw

    Thank you, Jay! Technology should help, not rule us. A smart watch seems like a cool gadget and bravo to Samsung if they make a ton of money from the Galaxy Gear. But useful? I’d rather wear a hoola hoop around my wrist than a clunky watch that would complicate rather than simplify my life. The hoola hoop would, at least, be fun.

    • jaybaer

      There is video of me doing the Wii Fit hula hoop when I was at my most rotund. scary.

    • Saqib Sherazi

      Maybe we will end up like the people in the movie Wall-E, where technology has gotten to the point of making people lazy.

  • Jason

    On one hand, Jay, I’m totally with you – smartwatches are best left to Dick Tracy.

    On the other, I remember unleashing the exact same rant when cellphones started getting cameras integrated in them. They started out as a novelty, then the tech was iterated upon. Then the Web got involved, and smart people are now building entire businesses on this feature, and selling them to Facebook for a billion dollars. Today, you’d likely be laughed out of the room if you made a cellphone that *didn’t* include a camera.

    Right now, smartwatches are a novelty – a commercial proof of concept of wearable tech. So yes, I won’t be buying one now. But never? Oof, that’s harsh ;)

    • jaybaer

      You said it. “Commercial proof of wearable tech.” It’s a transitional product, the same way laptops will prove to be, eventually.

  • BRAD

    I actually LOVE my Pebble. I do somewhat agree, the masses will not adopt smart watches. It is niche. This new land grab is going to be very unfruitful for many of those competing in this space. But it does fulfill several needs…for me. There are MANY times when digging in your pocket actually is an issue.

    – I can keep my phone in my pocket during meetings and not be the guy buried in his phone, yet I still get alerted when very important.
    – I can plug my phone into my stereo and change my tracks while I’m in the pool.
    – I can keep my phone in my pocket while I jog and still see my time, distance, and pace. And change my music tracks while I run.
    – I can run around the house and see who’s calling no matter what I’m doing or where my phone is.
    – My watch can ring my phone in the house when I lose it, even when my ringer is off (Android)
    – In a meeting or at a movie I can turn my ringer off without getting my phone back out of my pocket.

    …just to name a few problems it solves.

    • jaybaer

      Interesting Brad. Some cool use cases there (and seems like Pebble is doing a broader array of things than Galaxy). Not sure any of those would push me over the edge, but I appreciate the overview

      • GrapeapE007

        Galaxy does everything the pebble does and more. I owned the pebble briefly before upgrading to the Samsung, and the limitations of the Pebble were what led me to upgrade. Both phones have great notifications etc.., but the Samsung is actually a virtual extension of the phone. With a mic and speaker, you can send and receive calls, performed google voice to text features, make google voice additions to calendars etc.. Samsung also has an IR sensor so you can use it as a remote for your T.V. And Cable box etc.. It also has a heart rate monitor and several other features not offered on the Pebble. It may be more of a toy than a tool, but it is perhaps only 1 or 2 steps away from being a standalone device, and then we would have something truly special.

  • Dave

    Like others I hope to leave the phone at home on occasion. Especially when I go to the gym or a quick errand. When I can stream pandora, text, and take emergency phone calls, my phone will be staying at home a lot.

  • Dave Link

    Thank you! I’ve had this same conversation with others about whether or not this is a step forward in tech development. You know what else is about wrist level and has apps and other useful items? My pocket, where I keep my smart phone. Until products like smart watches or Google Glass do something other than what I can do with my current tech toys I see zero advantage to a new addition. Glad to see I’m not the only one!

  • Joe

    With the number of cellphone thefts (especially those resulting in personal injury or death) dramatically increasing, smart watches could be one method to improve user safety. This could occur by reducing cellphone visibility and the awkward positioning of the cellphones that contribute to the ease of theft and injury of the victim.

    • jaybaer

      Very interesting point that I had not considered.

      • Ollie Roddy, sales-i

        Actually, on the flipside of the coin, couldn’t smart watches make users more vulnerable? When iPods were first released, victims of robberies were spotted because of their distinct white headphones. If I’m wearing a $400 smart watch, people can see at a glance that I’ve proabably got a $500 smart phone on me too.

    • Joey Frango

      you only forgot that thieves love to steal watches…

  • Aiden Ruse

    Truly said….

  • Shawn Bridgeman

    I think “for the sake of art” is probably the BEST reason to make things do other things. Because it’s art. But devices like the Pebble and Google Glass are not in that same category.

  • RealityCheck

    Obsolete article, but still a pretty amazing display of ludditism. The same logic could just as well be used to indict even wired telephones – can’t people just take the time to go talk in person? Are they really that lazy? And what’s with the popularity of cars, fer pete’s sake? People can’t be bothered to just walk to get there anymore? Jeez….

    And the constant reference to #FirstWorldProblems does nothing to strengthen this article’s premise. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with embracing technology, and nobody needs to feel obligated to defend doing so, or be apologetic about it. Some of us just like gadgets, and that alone is sufficient justification to enjoy them, for their own sake. And if technology provides us with devices that enhance our lives, or make certain activities more convenient, so much the better.

  • kam hagh

    Google glass isn’t about laziness………. Bad post!!!!_

  • GrapeapE007

    Wearable Tech is on fire and when Apple enters this space with the release of it’s Iwatch, people will be hooked. There is so much to offer, and when everything currently available on your phone is available in a standalone device on your wrist, why would you opt for a clunky phone? The Omate Truesmart Watch has already accomplished this goal of a 100% stand alone device at a $300.00 price point. When Apple accomplishes this in their unique style, with their marketing machine, and once all of the bugs are worked out after a few generations, we will all be wearing one. Apple has already been silently filing patents for their new watch, have assembled a team of experts and have been buying up various hardware producers who will be instrumental in the manufacture of the new device. You would be wise to do some research before forecasting the demise of a sector that is clearly emerging rapidly, but will likely surpass everyone’s expectations. The Smart Watch is here to stay and for now I am thrilled with my Samsung Gear Neo, but I look forward with great anticipation to bigger and better things.

  • Joey Frango

    Wow, you said everything that was in my mind. Thank you.

  • Shaun Wheatcroft

    So far, the word ‘smartwatch’ is actually quite misleading. True, these devices are smarter than your average watch, but their brain power generally isn’t located on your wrist.

    The more advanced functions of a smartwatch are delivered by pairing them to your existing smartphone. Find out if you REALLY need one and which one is right for you here:

  • Nicholas

    I want a watch because it will save me battery on my phone, because believe it or not, one of the biggest battery drains is the screen itself, so why wouldn’t I want a way to spend less energy on my phone, and at the same time get most if not all of my important information on a watch instead?

    It’s nothing to do with “First world problems”(What facetious twaddle, every new technology is FWP nowadays, shut up and accept change.), it’s to do with technological advancement, if I want navigation while walking, I don’t wanna be walking and holding my phone looking like someone who can’t cut the USB chord, with a smart watch, I can get what is not unlike a navigation arrow from a video game, which I think is so cool.

  • Rosevincent

    Did you think that some of us are hearing impaired and having a watch that vibrates on a call or text…gives us freedom from always having to either have an eye on the phone when it lights up …..or have it physically on our bodies to feel it vibrate. Furthermore it is a pain to go out and not be able to jus stick my phone in my purse because will not hear nor feel it vibrate
    Having this watch only 24 hours it has changed my life…I have more freedom…technology
    It is not just for the average user. ..think beyond yourself
    ps the watch makes my bluetooth enabled hearing aids finally perfect. ..the missing link…caller id…right on my wrist…no more staring at my phone….free at last!

  • Jason Booher

    “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.

    “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night,” Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946.