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The Future of Wearables: Standalone, Unobtrusive, and Everywhere 56

jfruh writes Wearable tech has been a pretty niche product so far, and a widely derided one at that, but moves are in the works to help the category break into the mainstream. One of the biggest irritants is that most wearable devices must pair with a smartphone to actually connect to the Internet — but an AT&T exec says that his company will be selling a standalone wearable by the end of 2014. Google Glass has been a flashpoint of conflict not least because it's extremely obvious; its creator says that subtle, non intrusive versions are coming. And while everyone wonders what Apple's play in this space will be, it may be best to imagine what they're working on as a successor to their fading iPod line.
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The Future of Wearables: Standalone, Unobtrusive, and Everywhere

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  • NOT ME !! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:39PM (#47421029)

    Let me begin this column with a disclaimer. Many of you will reflect on the fact that I also told Apple not to do the iPhone. But over time, I have come to realize that I was right about the iPhone and the smartphone in general. It has become a plague on humanity and a general annoyance.

    The iWatch will be worse. It will be even more annoying than the current annoyance title-holder, Google Glass.

    Of course none of this complaining is about Apple's ability to make scads of money or the distinct possibility that an Apple watch would actually be cool and perhaps astonishing (although I doubt it). It's about the idea, in general.

    I recall the days of the first electronic digital watchesâ"I actually own an original gold Fairchild LED watch (circa 1973 brand new $150; 2012 garage sale $5). All the electronics companies were looking into making watches with semiconductor innards and digital read-outs. The most prized was a huge clunker done by HP.

    So the idea of tech companies bringing out a slew of trendy wearables that everyone will want to have is not new. It appears to be right on track, part of a 40-year cycle.

    These watches from the 1970s have since been ridiculed because they were actually dumb, as I expect we will conclude again with the current offerings, once the madness dies off.

    The key to their success in the 1970s and their eventual demise was one in the same: trendiness. They began as trendy and cool. Then they were no longer trendy and cool. Done.

    Current observers looking back on the old watches say they were impractical because you needed to use both hands to tell the time. Yes, you had to hold the watch up, then with your other hand push a little button to light up the LED so you could see what time it was.

    People who look back on this flaw seriously miss the point. These watches were the prestige item of the moment. They cost over $1,000 in today's money. The idea was to make sure people knew you had one to show off.

    Thus you should have to go through a two-handed process. Not to get the time, but to alert those nearby that you were cool and probably rich. The process was a ritual.

    Ritualization history will repeat itself with overpriced watch usage once again. When will we finally exit this age of posturing and showing off between fellow true believers in tech junk? Probably never.

    With iWatch (and Android Wear watches) there will be more than a button push just to get the time. These new devices are equipped to do all sorts of useless things you can show off. "Oh look, my heart is racing." "Oh look, my blood pressure is up." "Oh look, I can eat a donut and my blood sugar is the same." "Oh look, yesterday I walked over a mile while inside the mall!" "Oh look, the atmospheric pressure just changed. Did you feel it?" And on and on and on.

    The only thing that will differentiate new smartwatches from the LED high-tech watches of the 1970s is that these things will never be used as a watch.

    The emergence of smartwatches also explains why the already too-small-to-handle GSM phone SIM card is shrinking into nothing. It needs to fit inside wearables that double as phones, probably through an earpiece.

    I have to assume that you will or should have some sort of earpiece in all the time as you can expect the future iWatch to be another outlet for Siri. I can see the demo on stage now with Tim Cook or some nameless functionary talking to their wrist like they are old pals.

    The iWatch will be something everyone will want and it will pack them in at the Apple store through Christmas. After that I'm not so sure. Once announced we'll see more news stories about people lining up outside the Apple Store to buy the watch, like they did for iPhone. And the cycle begins again, adding to the worst tech possible for mankind.

    Don't expect to see me buying one.

    NOT I !!

  • Battery life (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ensignyu ( 417022 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @08:57PM (#47421141)

    No, the biggest irritants are battery life and price. Putting a standalone cell radio in a watch will make the battery life even worse than the 24-48 hours that the latest crop of Android-based watches get with real usage. And the cell radio costs more and will probably have lousy antennas.

    I can see why AT&T would want a cell-connected watch: so they can charge you an extra $5-$10 a month to add another device to your plan.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @09:07PM (#47421189)

    Yes.... and make no mistake, it is coming. Full time HD video in unnoticeable form factors is just around the corner. It's being worked on right now.

  • Re:Without a phone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday July 09, 2014 @10:27PM (#47421599) Journal

    I think it's doable, depending on what you want it to do. Considering you example of the Casio Data Bank 150 [casio.co.jp], about the only thing that needs Internet access would be the scheduler for keeping your calendar in-sync. Personally, I'd drop the phone directory because I have that on my phone. Calculator, stop watch, alarm, etc. are all doable without the Internet.

    If the watch is something you glance at ("Whoops! Time for my 2:00 meeting!") or use momentarily ("What is 17% of $7392?"), I don't think there'll be a problem with battery life. But if the theory is that my smart watch will replace my smart phone, I don't think so.

  • Personal Hub (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Thursday July 10, 2014 @04:16AM (#47422709) Homepage Journal

    Probably the future of wearables is the personal hub.

    The problem with wearables is that a radio capable of sustaining a connection to the outside world - be it 4g or wifi - needs a fair bit of power and consequently quite a lot of battery. So devices have to be fairly chunky, or else have to be recharged more often than you'd like. But your bluetooth mouse probably goes months on one charge - mine certainly does. So the solutions is to have a device mounted discreetly on your belt or in your handbag, or carried in a pocket, which just acts as a personal hub/firewall, doing backhaul for your wearables. It doesn't need a screen. It doesn't need apps. But once it's paired with your wearables, you can use a device which has no backhaul capability to make phone calls or to access any service on the Internet.

    This is an extension of how Google Glass or your Pebble watch already uses your smartphone. The smartphone acts as a personal hub. But if the display you actually use is the one on your Glass or the one on your Pebble, you don't need the big, fragile, power-hungry screen on your smartphone any more; so the personal hub can be cheaper and much more durable than any smartphone.

    Once you've got that concept, there are other services that a personal hub can supply to your wearables, for example storage.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama