Wrist

HTC enters smartwatch fray; my wrist remains unimpressed

Hey wrist, how’s it going down there between my elbow and fingers?! Great, good to hear it! Hey, did you hear the latest news!? Yet another manufacturer wants to make a smaller version of a smartphone and wrap you in!

It’s HTC this time, according to Bloomberg. Should be out sometime in the second half of 2014. Exciting, right?! … So, is your steely cold silence a genuine non-reaction or are you just frozen from the shock of all the awesome?

Smartwatches are nothing new. Aside from niche fitness bands, there have been any number of capable- ish devices that fit on the back of hands. But over the past year, something different has started to happen: Nearly every top-shelf mobile manufacturer has developed a raging wrist fetish.

We’ve seen a floodgate of smartwatch rumors regarding the ApplesMicrosofts, and Googles of the world, not to mention much-hyped dawn of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which went on to excite exactly nobody.

The wrist should not be the next great battleground of tech (that should be smartglasses). Wrists simply offer little in the way of functional possibility. The main holdback is that the wrist is tiny as far as body parts go. The diminutive space allows for only so much functionality that we expect in a mobile devices. A wrist will only facilitate a small display (1.6 inches in the case of Galaxy Gear and Sony’s smartwatch) and a dainty camera (only 1.9 megapixels on the Gear, none on Sony’s watch).

And while you be able to use a smartwatch to communicate via voice or video chat (it is possible, but annoying with Gear), it doesn’t present a huge advantage over talking on a phone or tablet.

Why would you ever choose this to have a conversation on?

As they have been presented thus far, smartwatches are just your phone’s notification outpost on our arm. They prompt the user to investigate actions on a separate, more capable, device.

This isn’t to say that a wristcentric device will never become a part of our digital lives. They might. However, a smartwatch promises to be little more than a wearable accessory, not a wholly new form factor in and of itself. They will not replace our phones.

Wrists are great. They’re always just kinda there. Right in plain view. They make a wonderful outpost for the digital world. But they are less likely to be windows into the virtual world, than they are bridges to the more powerful devices in our pocket.

I could easily be swayed by some magical new take on the form from the likes of Apple or Google, but I don’t really see how smartwatches will evolve to be anything beyond your phone’s little out-of-pocket friend.

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