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5 reasons why smart watches are still a dumb idea

Andrew Williams by

Samsung Galaxy Gear
Samsung Galaxy Gear

OPINION: One of the biggest tech trends of the moment is the smart watch. Samsung has just launched one – the Samsung Galaxy Gear. And so has Sony, in the Sony SmartWatch 2.

However, I still can't get my head around why any person... scrap that, any normal person would want to buy one.

5. Their battery life is a learning curve too steep for most

We were hoping for some kind of battery revelation with the next round of smart watches, but it did not appear. Use them constantly and you'd be able to measure the stamina of the SmartWatch 2 and Galaxy Gear in terms of hours, rather than days.

In reality, you should be able to get a few days out of them – primarily because there's no real need to use them all the time. They can't play games and the apps they do have are little more than crappy little satellites that need to communicate the mothership apps that live in your phone.

However, the average person is not going to be happy with having to charge their watch almost as often as their phone.

4. They're not much cop as sport watches

You could argue that a successful niche kind of watch, the sport watch, is no different. Use something like a Garmin Forerunner watch for its intended purpose and it'll run out within hours.

The main issue is that a GPS sport watch is a product made for an enthusiast audience that's willing to make concessions because what a GPS watch does is really quite special. Before the days of such things, it was pretty much impossible to map your runs, your cycling routes, with anything approaching such accuracy.

A smart watch like the Samsung Galaxy Gear is not really an enthusiast device. It's for your average gadget fan with slightly too much money and far too much time to spend reading up about such things.

These devices don't work well as the enthusiast devices they may appear to make obsolete, either. Manufacturer specs suggest that neither the SmartWatch 2 nor the Galaxy Gear have GPS – they have a pedometer, and that's about it.

So either you make do with the fidelity of something like a Fitbit, or take a phone with you - which does have GPS. And running with a Galaxy Note 3 in your pocket just isn't a good idea.

3. You'll look like an idiot using them

SmartWatch 2Rubbish battery life is a hurdle these new smart watches have to deal with, but a more basic social problem is the issue of using the thing. In public.

Samsung boasted that you can hold up your arm as if you were holding a phone, to make a call, when wearing a Galaxy Gear. The problem they seem to ignore – you won't be holding a phone, and therefore will look like you've just escaped from a nearby secure facility.

You may look crazy when talking into the handsfree remote control of your headphones, but at least you look like you're talking into the air, not an imaginary phone.

Perhaps I'm the one with the problem. I don't wear hands-free headsets, I don't wear sunglasses indoors, I don't try to fist-pump strangers when I meet them. Perhaps I'm just up-tight.

But, yes, I am putting the use of a smart watch as a phone in the same box as these social sins.

2. They cost as much as a good phone

Then there's the price. The Sony SmartWatch 2 and Samsung Galaxy Gear are not disastrously expensive. The Sony is around £130, the Samsung $300 (so around £300 knowing our luck.)

However, they are not impulse buys, and for most people the purchase of a smart watch will be hard to justify. Here's the rub – are phones really that inconvenient? They whole point of a convergence device is that it is convenient, and time-saving. The smartphone is already the ultimate convergence device.

One excuse for a smart watch is the super-giant phones that are starting to appear, such as the Xperia Z Ultra and the Galaxy Mega 6.3. However, we're not convinced they have much of a place in the mainstream phone market either. These are phones so big, they don't even fit in your pocket comfortably. Who wants that?

1. They are probably bad for your mental health

And do we want to increase the pervasive influence of smartphones even more? The main use for a smart watch is to put notifications even closer to your brain, so that gmails, Facebook messages and inane Tweets from porn bots can prang your consciousness whenever they fancy.

The way we use smartphones is a core part of the way we live today, but that doesn't mean it's particularly good for us.

Have you ever tried living without the constant bleep-bloop notifications of a smartphone for a few days? You don't even need to stop using a phone, just stop the incessant emails, social networking updates and prods from Groupon, Foursquare and a dozen other online irritations.

After the initial feeling of dread that you're somehow severing a sort of digital umbilical cord, that you're missing out on the world's workings, you'll feel better. Your head will get clearer.

Our brains aren't really meant to work at the 240bpm staccato rhythm of the internet realm. That's the real reason why you won't see me wearing a smart watch any time soon.

Don't agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Next, read our Sony SmartWatch 2 hands-on

Go to comments


September 4, 2013, 11:06 pm

This article is dumb.

You have completely missed the point.


September 4, 2013, 11:52 pm

What's the point then, pray tell? #iwanttobelieve


September 5, 2013, 12:01 am

You definitely got the point and already changed my mind into buying Samsung watch. A great article indeed.


September 5, 2013, 1:34 am

Then tell us whats the point. Even if Apple release a iWatch, I wont touch it


September 5, 2013, 3:02 am

Too early to judge, maybe if u owned one then i might consider believing ur opinion...


September 5, 2013, 7:58 am

Good article, Point 4 though, nearly touches on the fundamentals of the whole smart watch movement and the direction it's going in....
What is a smartwatch for?
What is the point?
What problem does it solve?

I want email on my phone, but not really on my watch?
With my watch I want to be able to tell the time quickly and efficiently.
I want to receive alerts and prioritise accordingly as to whether I want to get my phone out of my pocket (lazy or what???).
In that respect, the Pebble won hands down. Solved a couple of issues (time and notifications) and the battery lasted a few days (though still not nearly enough). While the Samsung watch looks cool, they haven't really asked the obvious questions. I'm hoping Apple don't just follow suit and put the ipod nano on a strap.


September 5, 2013, 8:22 am

This is just samsung going "we have made so much money in the last few years, what more pointless technology products can we make/test out?" Almost as dumb as the HTC's phone for your phone.


September 5, 2013, 12:01 pm

These are clearly early days, but Andrew is spot on in saying that no one has made a serious case for smartwatches so far. Neither Sony nor Samsung has shown a killer feature, not one worth paying £200 to £300 for, certainly.


September 5, 2013, 12:51 pm

Aren't we at the point where hands-free kits are more or less accepted as practical?

Not sure it's fair to associate them with other odd practices these days... and the watch could catch on similarly. How long have we been prepped by Dick Tracey?

Other than that, pretty much my thoguhts on smart watches, especially given their bulky look.


September 5, 2013, 12:53 pm

You want the killer app for smart watches? NFC + Oyster Card. No more hunting through your bag or pocket for your oyster. Just wave your wrist over the sensor.


September 5, 2013, 12:57 pm

It isn't necessarily about "what problem does it solve", as another poster mentioned. If it was that simple, we'd all know what a smartwatch should do and there'd be an obvious market which would already be filled.

It can convenience that will drive it. For most people, having instant access to email isn't a problem, but it is a convenience. The same with the phone itself, it's a convenience (a great big amazing convenience) being able to talk to almost anyone at basically anytime.

Smartwatches should compliment your phone. Things like looking up direction on your phone to someplace you are walking to. Then instead of checking your phone to see where you should go next, look at your watch and it'll point in the direction to go.

Unfortunately, the only things I can think of just avoid you taking out your phone to look at it. But add enough small conveniences together and you'll get something that could find a market...at the right price.

And finally, if history has shown us anything, make it beautiful and people will want it to buy it, even if they can't justify why.


September 5, 2013, 1:54 pm

For a few limited features, tor save you getting the phone out of the pocket, the watch could be good.


September 5, 2013, 2:31 pm

There is a convenience factor in certain situations (where you don't want to be seen as more engrossed in your phone than your surroundings - in a meeting, for example, or a pub).

Whether that convenience is worth £130-plus and yet another charging cable is debatable.

Also I'm not clear why you'd want to use the camera on a phone when you have what is likely to be a much better camera on the phone in your pocket, unless you are trying to take a photo surreptitiously, which is kind of creepy in a Google Glass kind of way.

Since my sanity is regularly questioned anyway, I don't think point 1 is that relevant to me. Despite that I think you'd be crazy to buy a watch that locks you in to a specific phone manufacturer for the duration you want to use it.

Much as I hate the word, there is only one way to describe smart watches. Meh.


September 5, 2013, 2:36 pm

A smart watch be much more useful if it replaced the phone completely, not required you to carry a phone as well


September 5, 2013, 2:43 pm

It's just a techie toy really. I'd like a Sony version, I really would, but I can't honestly think what I'd use it for that I don't use my existing watch for (telling the time/date).

I once tried using my phone as a timepiece instead of watch and that didn't work too well, too awkward and time consuming. This is just an extension of that idea. A nice techie toy version of that idea though, hmmm. Nice idea shame about the battery life.

btw - I turn off virtually all notifications anyway so the watch wouldn't be bothering with its bleeps


September 5, 2013, 3:06 pm

I think the smartwatch and the phablets complement each other well, as those are rather unwieldy. Why would you want a phablet in any case? You carry around your digital life and can share spontaneously with people you bump into.
It's probably healthier to have a phone away from your body as much as possible
BTW, I had to laugh at point 3, hilarious. I would use a smartwatch for anything but a call. Well maybe just one Startrek impersonation - "Spock, beam me up, there is no intelligent life down here"

Barry Coidan

September 5, 2013, 3:56 pm

Buy a really nice mechanical watch which you and your friends can admire. It'll look good on your wrist unlike a smartwatch which will make the wearer look like a character out of "Thunderbirds" or "Star Trek"

Frode P. Bergsager

September 24, 2013, 8:37 am

I am using the old Sony Smartwatch each day, but have ordered the new SW2 due to better screen (always on + sunlight viewable) and more waterproof.

Still the SW2 is a too expensive, and missing scratchfree glass and wireless charging to be perfect.

Samsung Gear reminds me of a too large Swiss Army knife, impressive but impractical:

Michael Ferstl

October 25, 2013, 4:47 am

Everybody is talking about these useless 2nd screens . why is nobody talking about watches like the neptune pine?


April 23, 2014, 3:31 am

You're dumb, you've completely missed the point.

Kevin Labranche

July 31, 2014, 5:49 pm

Ok...I do love watches there's nothing wrong with a second screen on your wrist if it make a easier way to use your phone without looking at it directly. For example I hate it when someone pull out there phone to check a SMS as we are talking. smart watch would be less annoying and faster. Anther thing is price....Good Watches are expensive I pay always over 200$ for each watch i buy and I'm no billionaire, but i love watches. Smart watches are a thing for people who first love watches and wear them not like most people that you see around, but you gotta think about the company. not everybody as watches so people will be more inclined to get a smart one when they good cause it will not be a replacement but a new thing for most people. Me for example, I will not ditch my watches till a very good smart watch get out cause I love the feeling. Watches are a fashion or utility article it not on the same level as a phone, a tablet, a headphone, a computer or even a Bluetooth headset. In my personal opinion, smart watches are going to be very popular in the next few years and even maybe lead to other wearable technologies. Fashion is the new motto for pretty much every company nowadays at a time in history where more then ever it is all about consumption and beauty instead of quality and durability. We want everything for nothing...

lee ward

August 1, 2014, 7:00 pm

I got the Sony smartwatch 2 because my dad was ill and I'm not allowed my phone on site, that way i could sneakily read any texts concerning him ... It did what i needed it to do so i could be there when the time came but to be honest being sneaky is the only reason i can think of for buying a smart watch it's just as easy to take your phone out of your pocket and read a text or what ever you need to do

Paul M

August 1, 2014, 8:17 pm

only Chuck Norris has the muscles to wear a Neptune Pine. those things are enormous!

Paul M

August 1, 2014, 8:19 pm

why not just get a wrist band to which you can attach the oyster card. If you were careful I'm sure you could cut off some of the edge off the card!


August 28, 2014, 12:35 am

haha you nailed it right on the nose. what a waste of time and resources. The ONLY thing that SEEMED cool about these is being able to James Bond somebody that's talking smack about someone, but the screen stays on while recording video so they'll know you're recording them. Not to mention the Galaxy Gear only lets you record 15 seconds of video at a time. What a joke! Make one that runs full Android L and maybe I'll consider it. Then they say "how would you use the screen when it's so small?". The answer is in hardware buttons instead of touchscreen. Who the heck wants touchscreen on a watch? lol.

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