Wearable Tech: Practical or Gratuitous?

Josh Voth 

Laptops, smartphones, cameras: we own them, we use them, we love them. The twenty-first century has seen huge advances in technology and likewise a huge decrease in the price of silicon (used to make computer chips).  This gives way not only to fast, flashy phones and cameras with pixel densities undetectable to the human eye, but we also see new technologies emerge, the most recent being wearable tech — the smartwatch being the most notable.

Pros:  In an article titled, “Why Wearable Tech Will Be As Big As Smartphones” on wired.com, Dan Goldman writes, “Data will not help you if you can’t see it when you need it.” and to an extent this is very true. Not only do these smartwatches connect you to your social world, they also retrieve important pieces of data which many people will undoubtedly take advantage of.  Competitive swimmers, bikers, and runners have already found that using such devices to track performance has been an undeniably important tool. Sensors in smartwatches map performance and replay data to the user for his or her benefit sometimes in real time. This is huge. 

Another “pro” for smartwatches is the seamless integration of fashion and tech in a familiar way. Although smartphones saw a pretty fast adoption-rate, size, price, and brand became variables which seem to never change and which alter what we buy and how we integrate them in our lives try fitting a six-inch phone in your pocket: easier said than done.  However, a smartwatch doesn’t add any new variables to our complicated lives. Most of us wear watches and so wearing a 'smart' one doesn’t really shatter any worlds. Their size doesn’t change, their base service (telling time) doesn’t change, and we are already familiar with their presence.

I will also briefly touch on the fact that the smartwatch and wearable tech for that matter, helps us connect faster with our online and social lives; something that is very attractive to people of any age. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram these are all services we use and now we don’t even need to pull our phones out of our pockets.  While some see this as our humanity becoming increasingly stupid and/or lazy, we cannot deny that this is something many are attracted to, and which may become a solid reason (at least for them) to buy such products.

Cons.  Google’s engineering director David Singleton has been quoted saying that smartwatches allow users to be “more present with people around them.”  but the reality is that it certainly does not. Just like with phones, tablets, and e-readers, we naturally become attached and immersed in our own little worlds behind the glowing screens of our tech. We should be attempting to remain vigilant as we slowly begin to alienate ourselves from our peers and families, which are being replaced by the likes of Farmville.

Another con and perhaps an obvious one is price. These wearables can be priced at anywhere from 350 to 17,000 dollars! Yes, three zeros.  Wearable technology is still in it’s early-adoption stage and although popular companies like Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and Pebble have already seen quite a bit of revenue from this new tech, it still has far to go.

Final Thoughts.  Like any technology, prices in the beginning are steep, but we do see an equilibrium swing as the tech becomes more embraced.  We must also realize that technology, which we are familiar with, is extremely attractive to a generation of people who seek highly customizable and personal experiences. We’re constantly using social media, search engines, blogs, merchandise vendors, email; the list goes on and on. Undoubtedly, we will see a move from smartphones to smartwatches as instant notification becomes a high priority for tech-users.

Smartwatches are just another method of delivering such content to users but at a price. This tool tracks health and performance, and these are tasks which our phones are not capable of doing. This may be a point in their favour, but to fork out hard-earned money for something which your smartphone can do ie. Twitter and Facebook you may want to reconsider. Big vendors like Apple and Google will keep delivering new technology into our hands, and we must use wisdom in discerning whether purchasing such products adds real value to our lives. If not, perhaps settling with what we haveis the better alternative.

  If my article has not dissuaded you or you are simply a tech enthusiast with some money to spend, here are some suggestions for smartwatches to buy: Pebble $200+, Moto 360 $300, Samsung Gear S $300, Apple Watch $700+.