Smart Watch Time

A number of large electronic device manufacturers are mumbling incoherently in the corner about Smart Watches and it just seems a bit backward to me; putting a strap on a superior device to disguise it as something from the past. Retro-disguising modern technology to look like something else seems all too sentimental (and a little bit childish)… or maybe just calling it anything-watch.

And yet phones are getting bigger and jeans are getting tighter. So having a quick screen available that saves you from broken fingers or having to stand up to get things out of your pocket is a good thing, right?

Henry Ford famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This is a quote dear to my heart because it reminds us that, in most cases, people solve problems in their head with tools they are familiar with (similar to how people learning a language will navigate a sentence based on their vocabulary).

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of product user research. I was always concerned that if you asked a hundred people how to do something and took the average answer you’d end up with an average product. And more importantly, convinced that if you asked 100 people how best to navigate a digital music player, back in 1999, NONE of them would have come up with the iPod wheel.

The watch in itself was a problem solved. Obviously not everything you put on your wrist is a watch. So is this just a case of faster horses and a tired metaphor?

Sony Ericsson has had a wrist mounted Live-View device for some time now. It’s a little choppy, but has some clever (albeit obvious) ideas. But the problem is when you sit it next to a beautifully crafted Tag Heuer or Rolex watch, or even a very normal (for the likely market) G-Shock – there’s no comparison.

I love that in the 80’s when I was in my early teens everyone had a different Walkman (sorry, personal stereo) and wore different trainers. The iPod era and everyone owning the same phone depresses me deeply. I believe that today the only reason watches exist is as jewellery, and as such personal taste and expression plays a major part. Variety isn’t something mass-produced-tech does well.

I see a choice coming. Just as you have those hardcore series 40 Nokia users, with battery lives like e-book readers that simply text and phone, who refuse to move to app-phones, you will have the watch wearers. The ones who don’t want to loose the parking space on their arm to another gadget when they have serious money flaunting to do.

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