Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear in September last year, a smartwatch that was supposed to herald the big breakthrough of smartwatches as a mainstream gadget. Unfortunately for Samsung the product was met with generally negative reviews with criticism about the look and functionality. The extent of commercial success was also unclear as reports emerged in November that only 50,000 units had been sold, Samsung responded with a claim that they had ‘shipped’ 800,000 units, which, of course, does not imply how many were actually bought.
Samsung announced a follow-up to the Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2, in February 2014 and for months rumours have been swirling that Apple’s next big product would be a smartwatch (speculatively named the ‘iWatch’) and with Sony already having launched an Android-based smartwatch, it’s clear that the big tech companies are keen for this to become the next gadget that is integrated into our lives.
The function of a traditional watch is straightforward – tell you the time – and as such the value comes from the quality of the production, the look and feel and the status and potential for investment the brand offers the owner. Smartwatches are a different proposition, given that functionality is the key selling point and can often mean sacrifices have to be made in terms of style and design.
If smartwatches are to be genuine competition for your Cartier, Rolex or Casio, then the watch’s role as a fashion accessory has to play into their marketing. Just as the design of a mobile phone has evolved over the past decade from clunky aerial-burdened black boxes to shiny, slim buttonless panels, so smartwatch makers will have to realise that few people want to walk down the street wearing what looks like a 90s hangover calculator watch.
With that in mind here are five smartwatches that have made an attempt to combine style with their gadgetry.
Five Stylish Smartwatches
1. Martian Passport
At first glance the Martian Passport looks like a normal watch – leather strap, hour hand, minute hand – but what it actually does is act more like a remote control for you smartphone. As well as alerting you to notifications with scrolling readouts, it also allows you to control your phone with voice commands and take calls via the watch. They currently retail at $299.
2. Pebble Steel
The Pebble Steel is a sexier version of the Kickstarter-funded Pebble watch that launched in 2013. It features a stainless steel and leather strap as well as a variety of apps available from the Pebble app store on Google Play that let you control music, navigation, your camera and customise your watchface. They retail at $249.
3. HOT Watch Classic
The Classic has quite a basic look to it, but that simplicity is what gives it the feel of a ‘proper’ watch, it’s modern, but with enough of a classic look to not stand out as a smart watch. It features the usual voice activation, music controls, pedometer and social media notifications and will be available from April 2014.
4. A.I Watch® La Vie
Boasting a Quad-Core 1.3GHz processor, which the makers claim would make it the most powerful ever in a smartwatch. At the moment though the watch remains in development having failed to reach its fundraising total on crowdfunding website indiegogo, which is a shame as the combination of features and style make it one of the best potential smartwatches around.
5. COGITO Classic
In the makers’ own words COGITO “merges classic analog movement with a lucid digital display“. It works via bluetooth and is compatible with Apple and Android devices and offers the convenience of not having to check your phone by displaying notifications. It certainly captures a contemporary watch look whilst retaining the classic face.
The Future for Smartwatches
The next big step in smartwatch developments has been the announcement that Google have developed a wearables-specific Android platform called Android Wear (more on Smartwatchfans.com – http://www.smartwatchfans.com/android-wear-roundup). Motorola and LG will be the first companies to release smartwatches using the new platform, which could potentially take the whole technology to a new level.
The longer term impact of smartwatches could be to bring watch-wearing back to a generation that has relied on their profligate choice of gadgets to tell them time. If that happens, it could mean a decline in the appeal of more traditional luxury watches or it could mean the value of style becomes more and more important as manufacturers seek to make their smartwatches appeal to a wider market.