The site 9to5Google yesterday reported a rumor that a Google smartwatch will be announced on October 31 this year. Well before this, Google was rumored to be working on a smartwatch. Not long ago, the company acquired WIMM labs, builder of smartwatches.
I have no doubt that Google will introduce an Android-based watch. But will it be a treat or a disappointing “1.0″ product? Here are the relevant questions:
- What will the design look like?
- How much will it cost?
- What will be its core functions/capabilities?
- How will it interact with Android devices (and iPhones)?
- Will it become another development platform?
The answers will spell the difference between success and failure.
The article from 9to5Google asserts that technology and functionality from Google Glass and Now will be at the center of a Google smartwatch experience (will it be branded Nexus?).
Google Now makes considerable sense in a watch, although if it were a core feature it would need to get better. Right now one can forgive Google Now some of its quirks and problems because it’s an adjunct or secondary piece of functionality.
It also makes sense to use some of the features and apps developed for Glass, as well as lessons already learned, in a smartwatch. It would also make sense for developers to be able to create apps for Glass and a smartwatch simultaneously.
Yet “less is more” when it comes to a watch. Users aren’t going to be interested in doing everything on their watches (voice commands are essential but calls are not). Accordingly they’ll want selected features. Trying to make a smartwatch do too many things will make the device less attractive.
A case in point: Samsung raced its Galaxy Gear watch (pictured at right) to market to beat Apple’s anticipated iWatch, which didn’t get announced. This “0.5″ version of the Samsung device is now DOA. It received scathing reviews and it has quickly become a lesson in what not to do:
- The device is awkwardly designed, even ugly
- It’s not compatible with most smartphones
- It takes a “kitchen sink” (even incoherent) approach to app development
- It’s relatively expensive ($299) for what it is
- It doesn’t deliver against promised performance
First and foremost any smartwatch must work and look good as a watch. It shouldn’t be more than $199. It has to work on its own for certain core functions without a nearby smartphone and it should be compatible (for extended functions) with both Android devices and iPhones.
There’s considerable curiosity and interest among consumers in smartwatches. Right now many people are interested in fitness-related capabilities. But additional key features, including a well-functioning version of Google Now, could really help sell such a device.