The Smartwatch I Want Doesn’t Exist Today, but It Could
I have always have a fascination with tiny, supplementary gadgets that change the way we interface with staple devices. The S Pen, for example, is a controller for the Galaxy Note series that unlocks tons of functionality. To this day, while using the Nexus 4 as my daily driver, I miss using the S Pen. And other styli simply can’t compare.
When the inPulse Smartwatch by Allerta was first announced in late 2009, I could’t help but swoon. At the time, I was was die-hard BlackBerry fan (to the point I refused to own anything else) and could not wait to get my hands on this revolutionary piece of tech. It was a watch with an LCD display and extended connectivity. It interfaced with your BlackBerry device to show incoming messages and other notifications.
The premise was simple.
By the day, more people were finding themselves with their noses pressed against their smartphone displays, tapping away at the keyboards, answering emails, browsing the Web, BBMing with their cronies. And over time, smartphones began impeding personal lives, business meetings and virtually all other aspects of life.
By throwing those notifications to a watch, something a little more discrete, it would give users a buffer between their device and allow them to glance at the activity on their device without having to whip it out and act on everything in real time. Glance, make a mental note and deal with it later – not unlike a physical version of the new so-called revolutionary Gmail client on iOS, Mailbox.
Fast forward four years and the initial philosophy is still the Nirvana of the tech world. Why else would Mailbox be so popular? Everything is about time management, balance between work and personal life and restoring order to our chaotic, connected lives.
In four years, the team that originally came up with the inPulse Smartwatch is still hard at work trying to help tech fiends achieve that Nirvana-like state. Pebble. It’s practically inPulse in a prettier housing, more simplified display with slightly more functionality.
The minute I saw the Pebble Kickstarter project, I couldn’t help but drool a little. I followed the inPulse project until it was delayed for the nth time, and was ever-hesitant about pre-ordering. My skepticism paid off. The inPulse shipped a year – yes, one full year – later than expected. And I was just as hesitant about Pebble after I found out some of the same people were behind the project.
Thankfully, some Pebble units have started shipping. And I can’t be too far out from getting a shipping confirmation email – at least I hope I’m not. It will most likely be my most prized possession for a couple months. At the same time, however, I can’t help but feel Pebble, I’m Watch, Martian Watches, Sony SmartWatch, Buddy and MetaWatch Frame and Strata are behind the times.
Pebble is easily the front runner in the category, as it should be. But strip away all the plastic and metal and it’s clear Pebble is only a small adaptation of inPulse, a now three-year-old concept.
By now, I figured smartwatches would have seriously taken off and would have already started to take a new form. I imagined companies would have already taken this wearable computing trend to an entirely new level. Google is on the brink of doing so with Glass. And some seem to believe Apple will revolutionize the smartwatch field with something from way out in left field.
For nearly two years now, my idea of what the ultimate smartwatch would be stemmed from a concept I stumbled across in 2011 called Galaxy Skin. Basically, the fictional device incorporates one of Samsung’s flexible AMOLED panels, which wraps around your wrist for both convenient use and safekeeping. But when you want to use the device, simply unwrap from your wrist, fold in half and use.
Of course, this is a bit of a stretch, as flexible components are currently a bit of a pipe dream.
Still, a large display on my wrist isn’t something I’m adverse to, even if it’s there to stay. I actually wouldn’t be adverse to a Dick Tracy-style watch that provides all the services my current smartphone does. In other words, rather than just being an extended notification service for my phone, I would prefer to see the watch be a full-fledged phone itself.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s absurd! The experience would be terrible! The display would be far too small to be useful!”
Maybe not. Bear with me for just a bit longer.
Consider a smartwatch in the form of the Galaxy Skin, just not flexible. (The display would be the flexible component, the rest of the device stationary, save for a hinge and clasp.) A watch with a 3-inch 4:3 display would measure about 2.4-inches tall and 1.8-inches wide. That’s only a hair narrower than the iPhone 4S/5 display (1.8-inches to 1.94-inches) and about a half-inch shorter than the iPhone 4S display at 2.4-inches tall. Combine those measurements with a slightly curved display, and it wouldn’t look terribly comical on your wrist (no more comical than holding an 8-inch tablet up to your head).
The aspect may be off, which would slightly change the dimensions, but it would look similar to the above representation of the Galaxy Skin.
Let’s take this a few steps further, though. With keyboards that offer gesture typing (Swype, SwiftKey Flow and the stock Android keyboard), one-handed use wouldn’t be all that bad. The display itself wouldn’t be much smaller than the iPhone display, and use and convenience factor should make up for the lack of size.
Even further, Google added wireless display support in the latest update, Jelly Bean. Thinking along the lines of Padfone, could it not simply mirror the interface to a larger device (i.e.: tablet-sized wireless display) via Miracast? If so, all you would need is a tablet-sized, Miracast capable touchscreen display.
Count me in.
I want Google Now, Twitter, SMS, email, Facebook and everything else directly on my wrist. Maybe I put too many hours into Fallout 3, but today’s idea of a smartwatch is inherently underwhelming. The only true hurdle I see causing a problem is battery life. But that’s still a problem for 90 percent of smartphones, so why it would stop someone from taking the idea of a smartwatch to the extreme is beyond me.
It’s 2013. Self-driving cars are a thing. Why aren’t watches truly smart yet? In the comments below, sound off on what you think smartwatches should be capable of. Would you wear a 3-inch device on your wrist if it meant you could use Google Now? Well, would you?