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Samsung Plans a Smartwatch With a Phone, but Why Stop There?

Standalone phone capabilities would promote smartwatches from nice to necessary. Now, let's hope Google does the same for Glass.

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Samsung, in the next few months, will introduce a smartwatch that can act as a standalone phone, The Wall Street Journal reported May 23, citing people familiar with the company's plans.

This, of course, will be a game-changer.

It may affect the saga of Samsung vs. Apple—though very likely Apple would soon enough offer the same thing—but more drastically it would move wearables from the category of "accessories we can take or leave" to "devices we don't want to live without."

I still remember perfectly a 1998 phone call from my now-husband, who was on a business trip in Japan. "They have cameras in their phones," he told me. At the time, I didn't yet own a cell phone, and standing at my desk, picturing a heavy receiver like the one I was holding, I lamely answered, "Why would you need that?"

Seeing Samsung's first Galaxy Gear in 2013, I wondered the same thing.

So much of the technology of the last decade can be separated into stuff that was created to solve a problem and stuff that's kind of cool but addresses no obvious need. Or at least, not a pressing need.

Google Glass can easily be assigned to the latter category when it comes to consumer use cases.

I admit to being someone who feels an instant, reflex-like pang of loathing toward (possibly very nice) people I see walking around New York wearing Glass.

I have to work myself away from thoughts like: "Really? You need that in the subway right now? You're going to sit there and pretend you're not thinking every single second about the very expensive and very exclusive technology attached to your head while we all know perfectly well how excited-to-your core you are to be wearing half-eyeglasses that let you read your email while seemingly staring at your right eyebrow?"

At least people who drive bright-yellow Lamborghinis tend to grin in acknowledgement of the spectacle they are. It's the faux nonchalance of Glass wearers that gets me.

But I digress.

I also am beginning to come around to Glass because, in the enterprise arena, it finds real problems to solve.

In verticals such as field service and warehousing, smartglasses offer a solution that no other devices can. They can enable a person picking items in a giant warehouse, for example, not only to see every new order, but view in 3D where the next item is located and keep his eyes up and his hands free. A technician, again with his hands free, can repair something while viewing additional needed instructions.

It seems to me that maybe smartglasses needed to find the enterprise to make the transition from kind of neat to necessary, and smartwatches needed an integrated phone to do the same thing.

New York real estate (my current apartment has one real closet) has turned me into a pragmatist; I only buy things I need. I walked away from both years' Galaxy Gear presentations with zero thought of buying such a watch.

But a watch with a phone is different. Not only could it replace a smartphone—if not for good, at least during an evening out, or during a run—but I could do so more conveniently. Running out of the apartment on an errand, keys, a wallet and a phone always feels like one item too many. (Smartphone-hosted "wallets" are another conversation.)

The question then becomes, what happens when Google and others put a phone in their smartglasses?

I hate jogging without a phone, especially in wooded areas; I would love a smartwatch with a phone, and of course also a pedometer and (as Samsung already offers) a heart-rate monitor. But what about glasses with a phone? What if the OK Google whisper technology could play music that only I could hear, and ahead of me I could see mile markers or other items encouraging me forward?

When both types of wearables include phones is when the real market competition will begin. I can hardly wait.