I used to have wearable connected technology, back in the day, and it was actually very handy. You wore it around the neck on a lanyard. It would beep when there was an incoming message or phone call or diary appointment, and it could go two to three days or more between charges.
You could also make calls by speaking into it, or just pressing one button. It was light enough to wear at festivals and discreet enough so nobody thought you were a show-off or a weirdo.
It was a Nokia 6230i.
Of course, phones are too bulky and too heavy to wear comfortably round the neck with a lanyard today. So the industry has created a new inconvenience to help make its current inconvenience slightly more convenient. The new inconvenience is a £200 watch that you have to charge every day. Isn’t technology brilliant?
I had a play with Moto’s 360 watch yesterday, the first Android watch I’ve laid hands on. And to the many Reg readers who are puzzled about what practical uses smartwatches could have – I can only say: you’re spot on, there aren't any. At least, not one I can think of over the old Nokia.
A Wear Watch doesn’t do anything your phone doesn’t already do, while arguably adding as much inconvenience as it takes away. We knew this from the things people were doing in Google’s Wearable launch video in March – when I concluded it was a solution looking for a problem, or more precisely, a rich nerd.
In the Google video, people were (in the order shown) receiving traffic info, receiving weather info, using an electronic boarding pass, sending a text message, ID’ing music and opening a garage door. All of these (with the possible exception of opening a garage door – although it depends on your door) are doable with the phone itself – probably from a widget from the home screen.
The Moto is actually very well made – everything Motorola showed us press folk yesterday was commendably well made: these were the G and X phones and a new bud-style Bluetooth earpiece and the Moto Hint, which needs re-charging every four hours. And Google has designed the UI really nicely; the Card is modest and unfussy and discreet. Yet none of that is really the point.
It has to do with saying that something is worth paying £199 for.
I’m sure the Moto 360 will sell a few units. It's more convenient than the current generation of fitness bands, and blessed with Google’s support, will be better integrated with its ecosystems than current smart watches. Sony recognised as much as it dumped its own smartwatch platform for Wear. But still, all I ever see people do with smartwatches today is change the face.
“I’m bored with analogue, I’ll choose a digital face.”
Ten minutes later.
“I’m bored with this digital face, I think I’ll choose hexadecimal. Hey! Last orders is at 0xB:00”
Google must have noticed too. The 360 lets you change watch face with a double tap.
I keep being told that speech makes all the difference, now, because in the era of Siri and Cortana speech has evolved into a "rich dynamic intelligent personalised interface" – or some such marketing speak. But that gives the game away. What we have is people trying to embed an embedded technology into a new container. But speech is already embedded in the car and in the phone – and these are ubiquitous. Anyone who wants to talk to a gadget is already doing so. Those who aren’t, are not doing so for a good reason: it annoys their colleagues, looks daft, and so on.
I added a caveat back then that maybe, just maybe, some markets will find a use for wearables, one that has somehow skipped an earlier generation of technology. In the same way that countries that were late to the industrial revolution didn’t lay down so much railway track as Britain, because once the internal combustion engine had been invented, they didn’t have to. I thought this was unlikely because the smartphone is now so well entrenched.
Perhaps I’ve overlooked some killer wearable app. Maybe the Tamagotchi will be reborn and save the day? ®