Smartwatches may fail, but wearables will not.

Everyone is talking about smartwatches as being the next big thing, with rumors that Apple, Google, Samsung are each working on one. Yet for all the hype, I think the notion of a smartwatch tied to a cell phone that is used simply as a remote screen and input device will be a failure.

Yes, there will be some niche users that want to buy one so they don’t have to take their phones out of their pockets or purses frequently. But for most users, having yet another device — and potentially an expensive one at that — while still carrying a smartphone around will be too much.

Successful technology that is truly helpful and transparent is what most consumers want. But a smartwatch as a remote screen coupled to a smart phone is not in that camp. The additional utility to make users spend their money is just not there.
Smart watches could be hugely successful, if we change our expectations. We need to change the conversation and address the whole notion of wearable devices in general. We shouldn’t look at duplication in functions worn on another part of your body. Rather, if I look at wearable devices as part of a personal sensor network and not just a remote window to my phone, that would have far greater value and one I’d be willing to pay for.

The sensor network could monitor my health (either as I work out, or if I have a medical condition). It could tell me where I’m located (not just for driving directions). It could tell me how many calories I’ve burned today (and consumed). It could monitor my blood pressure or sugar levels or oxygen, or numerous other potentially high value health things. And most importantly, it could truly empower me with pertinent information about myself on a continuous basis, much as the smartphone did for messaging. (Yes, there are a few such devices today, like Jawbone’s Up and Fitbit’s products, but they tend to be stand-alone, one-off designs, which aren’t integrated into my world very well and don’t talk to each other (they also tend to be costly).