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8 myths about the smartwatch revolution

Mike Elgan | March 25, 2013
New reports, rumors and predictions about smartwatches are packed with misconceptions

The Sony SmartWatch offers a number of features, including messaging, calendar notifications and social media access. 

This is wrong on two counts. First, smartwatches will, in fact, duplicate the functionality of smartphones to some degree. But they'll also enable new functions and new behaviors that are difficult to predict, as always happens with new platforms. Just think of all the unpredicted applications and uses for the iPad.

Second, laziness has nothing to do with it. Whenever a new convenience replaces something that's already pretty easy it always looks extravagant and unnecessary.

When I was in high school, a friend of mine from France viewed ATMs as evidence of how lazy Americans were. At the time, ATMs were more common in the United States than in France. Only a few years later ATMs would become universal, not only in France but throughout the world. Their use has nothing to do with laziness. When a better way to do something comes along, everybody does it.

Myth #4: Smartwatches are bulky.

So-called smartwatches have been around for many years. In general, they've all been far bulkier than conventional wristwatches. And that bulkiness has made them unacceptable for professional business wear.

Three technologies will make future smartwatches far less bulky. The first is E-ink or E-paper technology, which is lo-rez and monochrome, but very thin and easy on batteries (and therefore doesn't require a large, bulk-inducing battery.)

The second is curved glass, especially Corning's Willow Glass technology, which is not only curvable because of its flexibility, but also thin and light. Curved glass can change the shape of a wristwatch so that even if there's a lot of surface area and electronics there are fewer edges and corners to stick out and make it appear more bulky.

And third is the new Bluetooth 4.0, which uses so much less power that a large battery is not required.

Myth #5: Smartwatches are dorky.

The smartwatch revolution is actually a subset of the much larger wearable computing revolution. We can expect wearable computing glasses like Google Glass and wearable computing clothing, such as jackets, computers built into helmets, goggles, gloves, shoes -- you name it.

The least dorky version of wearable computing will be the smartwatch.

Myth #6: Apple won't ship a smartwatch until curved glass technology is ready in two years.

The rumor about Apple's assumed smartwatch is connected to the idea that Apple must and will use curved glass. So when Corning announced that their Willow Glass technology won't be ready for two years, many assumed that Apple would wait for it before shipping a smartwatch.

But this is flawed reasoning.

New technologies, especially those that require new manufacturing processes, have to be explored and developed years in advance of actual shipping. But that early work has absolutely no relationship to versions of a product that don't have the new technology.

 

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