Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What’s the Deal with Smartwatches?

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

They’re stylish.  They’re futuristic.  They’re high-powered.  And they’re (maybe) coming to stores near you.

In February, Bloomberg.com reported that Apple had a team of about 100 working on a “wristwatch-like device” with some of the capabilities of the iPhone and iPad.   Just over a month ago, a Samsung executive announced in an interview with Bloomberg that Samsung has been working a watch with smartphone capabilities.

Within days of the Samsung announcement, IGN reported on rumors that LG and Google may be working on similar wearable devices.

Evidence is mounting that smartwatches are going to be entering the market in the next year or so.   The question remains: beyond the cool factor of wearing a touchscreen computer on your wrist, are smartwatches something the general population actually wants or needs?

courtesy of Janitors via flickr.com
courtesy of Janitors via flickr.com

The smartwatch is hardly a novel concept—it’s been a science fiction staple for decades.  Various iterations of the devices have been introduced over the past twenty years or so.

In March, CNET ran a “brief history of smartwatches,” featuring,  among others, the bulky $700 Samsumg SPT-WP10 released in 1999, a watch running on Microsoft SPOT (Smart Pesonal Object Technology) discontinued in 2008, and a couple of newer models like the I’m watch and the Metawatch. 

Generally, smartwatches have failed to succeed commercially in a major way.   Early adapters aside, consumers weren’t eager to shell out serious cash for a watch with similar functions to the device in their pocket.

This year may be different.  Since its release in January 2013, the Kickstarter-funded iPhone and Android compatible Pebble watch has already been distributed to 85,000 people.  The project was backed by nearly 70,000 people and raised over $10 million dollars, making it the most successful Kickstarter project in history

Beyond the interest smartwatches have generated with consumers, companies have a vested interest in introducing a new product into the market.    Bloomberg reported in March on projections of slowing demand for smartphones.  As the market becomes saturated, tech giants like Samsung and Apple have a compelling motive to show consumers something new.

Image courtesy of conxa.roda via flickr.com
Image courtesy of conxa.roda via flickr.com

Smartwatches are sleeker, smaller, and more powerful than they were five or even two years ago.  People are becoming more and more used to the idea of wearable technology and the so called “internet of things.” 

Will 2013 be the year of the smartwatch?  At this point it seems like a real possibility.

Do you know anyone that owns a smartwatch? Would you consider buying an Apple or Samsung smartwatch?

Linda Gorman

Linda is a junior dual major studying information management and technology and magazine journalism. Find her on twitter @lggorman or at lindaggorman.com

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