Apple Needs to Tell us Why We Need a Smartwatch

By Gary Cutlack on at

Apple has a long history of arriving late to tech genres yet somehow producing the definitive model that quickly takes over. MP3 players. Smartphones. Tablets. Expensive metal laptops. But with Apple Watch, is it entering a niche that's already been proven dead?

Samsung, last week, said it was "pausing" its smartwatch release schedule, to either take time to perfect its next model, have a little cry about why no one's buying the things or wait to see what it can copy from Apple's forthcoming Watch, depending on who you listen to.

Sony's been launching smartwatches for years that hardly anyone's used and fewer people enthuse about, plus LG's got several clunkers that have already been hugely discounted by retailers and has even tried giving them away with some of its phones to try to shift the things.

It's fair to say that smartwatches haven't really taken off.

Is it because Android Wear and the proprietary OSes used by models like Pebble and Sony's earlier models aren't good enough, is it because the bezels and straps aren't shiny enough, or is it because they simply seem like silly ideas no one wants to buy?

I'm pretty sure it's because no one, not even the people making them, has any idea why smartwatches need to exist.

They're not as robust as sports trackers. They're not as versatile as phones. The batteries last for a substantially shorter length of time than those inside actual watches, should your main reason for buying one be regularly needing to know the time.

Our computers and the other screens we nervously check all day all say the time on them in the corner anyway. And the date. No one's going to be buying a smartwatch to use as a timepiece.

So what's left? Are we really expected to buy a smartwatch solely to use a simpler version of an app that's already on our phones? That's a ludicrous proposition, even in today's gadget obsessed world.

Apple Watch will have a few things going for it, no doubt. Jony Ive is known to be able to design a killer case, so it'll look nice. The round OS looks quite pretty, too. It may also function as a sports tracker, but there are sports trackers that do the same thing available for literally one tenth of the projected price of an Apple Watch.

At its core, it won't -- and can't -- offer anything more than the Android models. It's primary reason to exist is duplicating notifications from phone and tablet screens. That's pointless and needless. The Android smartwatches have proved that. If we wanted that, we'd have bought one of those grim LG things.

A glossy finish isn't the only thing smartwatches have been missing thus far. Jony Ive doesn't just need to make a fancy bezel, he needs to work out what smartwatches are actually for and tell us why they're needed in a world when we look at our phones 1,000 times a day.

Why, Jony, do I need a hobbled non-phone with a useless battery on my wrist for loads more money?

Apple may be about to reveal the best smartwatch ever, and the finest wearable yet conceived. It certainly looks nicer than LG, Sony and Samsung's chunky attempts, but if Thorntons released a staggeringly ornate chocolate teapot that's much prettier than all the existing chocolate teapots and with a glorious white chocolate spout, would you buy one?