Making Smartwatches a Worthwhile Purchase: 10 Essential Features

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-10-21 Print this article Print

Smartwatches are all the rage in the technology industry right now. Android customers are intrigued by the possibility of buying the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, while Apple's fans have been waiting months for their favorite company to launch its long-rumored iWatch. Even Nokia appears to be getting into the mix after it filed a patent application in the U.S. for a smartwatch that could come with multiple screens displaying various functions. Despite the hopeful efforts of several device makers that are trying to build interest in smartwatches, there's no indication that the average consumer is especially excited about the concept. It's difficult to say whether or not smartwatches will ever really catch on with mobile device buyers. In an era when many people use their smartphones as their timepiece of choice, do people really need yet another mobile device that does all the same things that their smartphones and tablets already do? There doesn't yet seem to be a compelling sales proposition for smartwatches, despite the heavy advertising and marketing Samsung is doing for its Galaxy Gear model. This eWEEK slide show examines the features in the current crop of smartwatches to see if they are worthwhile purchases.

  • Making Smartwatches a Worthwhile Purchase: 10 Essential Features

    By Don Reisinger
    0-Making Smartwatches a Worthwhile Purchase: 10 Essential Features
  • Full Smartphone Integration

    What good is a smartwatch if it's dumb? Any smartwatch hitting store shelves now or in the future must be capable of connecting to a smartphone and handling all of that device's tasks, including placing calls and sending text messages. The lack of such features will be the death of the smartwatch.
    1-Full Smartphone Integration
  • Style Is Everything

    Although smartwatches are being graded on their software and hardware integration, for the average consumer, their value is derived from their style. Sure, they can be functional, but don't think for a minute that men or women wouldn't want a sexy device to display on their wrist. Style is everything in the smartwatch space.
    2-Style Is Everything
  • The Right Company Must Be Behind It

    Not all companies can expect to achieve greatness in the smartwatch space. As the smartphone and tablet markets have shown, the devices that succeed are those that come from companies that are respected by consumers. That's why Apple and Samsung have a shot at achieving success in smartwatches and why a no-name alternative probably doesn't.
    3-The Right Company Must Be Behind It
  • A Reasonable Price, Please

    That the Galaxy Gear costs $299 is an absolute issue in the mobile space. Samsung, along with the company's competitors, needs to find a way to get smartwatch pricing down. The device on a person's wrist cannot—and should not—cost as much as the smartphone in his or her pocket. Affordability is everything.
    4-A Reasonable Price, Please
  • Dedicated Third-Party Apps

    If smartwatches are going to succeed, the devices need to have apps from third parties that can extend their usability. Sure, device makers are going to offer apps with their software, but will third-party developers see value in doing the same? If so, the respective smartwatch will succeed. If not, it'll have some trouble.
    5-Dedicated Third-Party Apps
  • Fully Intuitive Design

    Reviewers are finding that the Samsung Galaxy Gear's software is not as intuitive as they would like. That's a big issue. Ease of use is extremely important. People should be able to tap a few buttons, swipe around the display and handle just about any task from their smartwatch. Anything less than that will turn customers away.
    6-Fully Intuitive Design
  • They Must Deliver a Feature-Rich Experience—to a Point

    There's definitely something to be said for more features, but let's not forget that a smartwatch is a device sitting on a person's wrist that will have, at best, a 3-inch screen. What's more, the device's first function is to tell time. So, while companies might be tempted to dump every feature under the sun into their smartwatch, they might want to reconsider. Smartwatches will succeed when they're not overrun with useless features that only make the device harder to use.
    7-They Must Deliver a Feature-Rich Experience—to a Point
  • Is There a Google Now Connection?

    Google Now is the search giant's plan to provide the most relevant data to users wherever they are, at any time. Although there's no word on Google bringing its Now service to smartwatches, the concept behind it might fit in perfectly with a smartwatch. After all, a smartwatch travels with a person wherever they go and can be fully aware of location and what's in the area. Wouldn't it be great if the user could look down and see relevant information based on their location right on their wristwatch? Look for that to be the feature that puts one device over the top.
    8-Is There a Google Now Connection?
  • Multiplatform Interoperability

    Although the Galaxy Gear is a Samsung-friendly product, that's not enough. The real test in the marketplace will be the extent to which smartwatch makers are willing to let their devices work with multiple devices and operating systems. It might be against Apple's religion, but if the company ends up launching the iWatch, it better make sure the device works with Android.
    9-Multiplatform Interoperability
  • A Business Model Based on Longevity

    No one wants to buy a new watch every year. So it'd be in the best interests of both customers and hardware vendors if the smartwatches work reliably and look good for years. They should not be another throwaway electronic device. Granted, hardware vendors want to sell more products to increase revenue, but if the mobile space has taught us anything, it's that the so-called "ecosystem"—a place where companies can marry hardware and software—is truly the future. That's why the business model needs to be altered a bit in smartwatches. Device makers shouldn't try to make money solely on hardware. The future is in making a profit on devices and then setting up an ongoing revenue stream through software. Apple did it with the iPod and the iPhone. Can the company repeat that with the iWatch?
    10-A Business Model Based on Longevity
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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