There are few things dumber than a smart watch that's trying to be a smartphone.
Don't get me wrong - I'm looking forward to the deluge of clever timepieces about to rain down on us (pack a sturdy umbrella). I love the idea of having a new form of device that simplifies life just a little bit more by letting me see which appointment I'm just about to miss. Or control Spotify from my wrist. Or open a turnstile for me via NFC. Or tell me that I've eaten too much and done too little exercise as usual.
That's what smartwatches are for. They are companion devices to bigger, cleverer things that sit in our pockets and do the heavy lifting so that they can perform their very targeted tasks without fuss or fanfare. As second screens for our smartphones, they can achieve a host of useful stuff without a 3000mAh battery or supercharged processor.
You're kidding, Omate
Samsung Galaxy Gear
But smartwatches shouldn't get ideas above their station. A smartwatch that replicates, rather than augments, the capabilities of another device is wrong-headed. The Samsung Galaxy Gear and Sony SmartWatch 2 are skirting the barriers of what a watch should do. They're just too sodding clever for their own good, and the array of functions they offer requires processing power that eats into their battery life – turning them into yet another thing that you need to charge overnight.
But next to other offenders, their small crimes pale into insignificance.
I'm looking at you, Omate TrueSmart watch, with your dual-core A9 chip, full Android 4.2.2 OS and full complement of sensors and connectivity. And, most crucially, your ability to make voice calls minus a companion smartphone.
The power problem
Sony Smartwatch 2
If a watch wants to go all Dick Tracy, it needs its own SIM card. It needs, at very least, its own GSM radio and antenna. If it wants to be completely free of another device, it needs a chunky battery and a big screen for typing messages and making web searches.
As it gets fatter, uglier and more power-hungry, it gets further and further away from the traditional conception of a watch, and ever less palatable to wear.
Who watches the watchphone?
In case you don't know, the Omate is a Kickstarter project that reached its funding target in a day. There's clearly an appetite in the geek community for devices with these capabilities, but I can't help but think its backers are in for disappointment.
Why? Because every watchphone I've seen to date has been a disappointment. The I'm Watch is big and clunky. The LG GD910 was massive. The Omate looks better, and could be a beautifully made piece of hardware, but the pictures suggest its still a huge black blight to a wrist.
You won't look like Dick Tracy
Samsung Galaxy Gear
And the thing is, if you replace your smartphone with a smartwatch that has smartphone functionality, you're going to be making your life marginally worse. You'll lose the capacious 4+in screen, and in its place a poky little 'un no good for use by anyone unwilling to file down their digits.
And not only do you look like a loon talking into a watch, but it's also highly impractical. It just doesn't work with normal human limbs.
I admire Omate and the like for persevering with their Dick Tracy dream, but I worry that some bright and brilliant engineers have spent a year and a half creating something that no-one in their right mind would choose to buy.
Stick to the stuff that watches are uniquely placed to do, and a good smart watch could be genius.
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