Watch movements guide

The Smartwatch Debate – What You Need To Know

With the imminent launch of the Apple Watch on many people’s minds, we wanted to provide a quick overview of the smartwatch market as a whole, and answer some of the questions on everyone’s lips.

What is a smartwatch?

With all the hype surrounding the Apple Watch, it would be easy to assume that this is the first smartwatch on the market.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not – so what exactly makes a watch smart? There are many definitions as to what constitutes a smartwatch. According to Wikipedia, "A smartwatch is a computerised wristwatch with functionality that is enhanced beyond timekeeping." If we were to go with this definition though, the Quartz watches of the 1970s could be classed as smartwatches – and while they may have been technologically advanced at the time, they’re a far cry from what’s known as a smartwatch today.

The Smartwatch Group provides us with another definition: A smartwatch is worn on the wrist, able to indicate time, and able to wirelessly connect to the Internet. By this summary, the Timex Datalink of 1994 can be classed as the first popular smartwatch model, capable of transferring data between devices by linking with a computer.

In recent years, the likes of Samsung, Sony, LG and Pebble have introduced their own take on the smartwatch, making Apple a latecomer to the market.

How popular do we think smartwatches are going to be?

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and assume that everybody is buying a smartwatch left, right and centre. The sales figures tell a different story. In 2014, just 4.8million smartwatches were sold, proving the concept to be somewhat of a niche offering.

As the user, it’s your job to decide whether or not a smartwatch is right for your needs, so here at H. Samuel, we conducted a survey of 454 people to find out what people really think. The results were in line with the sales figures – only six per cent of respondents owned a smartwatch.

This may largely be down to a general lack of understanding and awareness of what’s currently available in the smartwatch market. After all, only 68 per cent of people had heard of Samsung Galaxy Gear and 61 per cent the Sony smartwatch, while 52 per cent knew the LG G Watch existed and less than half (49 per cent) were aware of the Pebble Smartwatch.

What is really interesting to note is that a huge 91 per cent of respondents had heard of the Apple Watch prior to its launch, with 10 per cent claiming to know a lot about it.

With this in mind, it could be that the hype and publicity of the Apple Watch is sufficient to take smartwaches mainstream, in the same way that the iPad brought tablet computing to the fore in 2010, despite Windows’ tablets being around since 2002.

Out of the 454 survey respondents, 61 per cent said they would consider purchasing a smartwatch in the future, showing that there is definite interest within the market. There is however, a long way to go to get from six per cent ownership to 60 per cent.

Do I need a smartwatch?

The main question you need to ask yourself is what you actually look for in a watch. Only then can you determine whether a smartwatch or a more traditional style of watch is the right fit for your needs.

We asked 454 people what factors are most valuable to them in a watch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most important factor in the decision to purchase a watch was the ability to tell the time – a feature which is definitely not unique to smartwatches.

Following this, the top rated elements that would affect the purchase decision were battery life and price, followed by style.

Smartwatches vs. Traditional Watches

Battery Life

Smartwatches have poor battery life. Some users may be shocked to hear that the Apple Watch battery life is a mere 18 hours, and therefore requires charging every day. Android Wear isn’t much better, with the Moto 360 lasting up to 24 hours. Sony Smartwatch 3 is the longest running of the smartwatches, just less than two days. Traditional watches on the other hand do not pose a problem with regards to battery life and tend to last between one and two years on average before the battery requires changing. With battery life being a major factor in the decision to purchase a watch (respondents rated it 8/10 on a scale of importance), this may well be the hurdle to overcome if smartwatches are to become mainstream.

Price

There’s no denying that the Apple Watch comes with a hefty price tag. At best it’ll set you back £299 (if you opt for the simplest style, Watch Sport); at worst? You’re looking at paying up to £13,500 for some of the Apple Watch Edition models. While Android Wear models are a lot more purse-friendly (the most expensive model to date is the LG G Watch R at £220), there’s a lot to be said for the stylish fashion watches available – they may not be smartwatches, but you can get your hands on a Guessan Accurist watch or a Kenneth Cole Rotary watch for a fraction of the cost. For the smartwatch market to appeal to a wider audience, brands will definitely have to lower their prices.

Style

They’ve been branded as the latest must-have but in all honesty, smartwatches are still quite clunky and do not offer the wearer something sleek and lust worthy in terms of style. They are becoming classier, with users able to customise some models to fit their exact needs and individual style but for now, they remain tech c ool. Fashion branded watches on the other hand offer the user timeless class and elegance, with ultra-chic models for the ladies and sophisticated style for the gentlemen. In our survey, style was also given an 8/10 rating on the scale of importance – and with so many of you wanting to accessorise your arm candy to your own style, the smartwatch just isn’t there yet.

What about the apps and other functions offered by smartwatches?

On first glance, it looks like smartwatches have it all – they can be used for emailing, text messaging, apps, and more. So far so good; but from our survey, functionality wasn’t deemed nearly as important to respondents. What’s more, users tend to turn to their mobiles if they want to send a message, make a call, email a colleague or access social media and apps – so are smartwatches really all that necessary? If your smartphone can do all of the above, you have to ask yourself, do you really need to invest in a smartwatch?

Looking back to previous scenarios, smartphone technology posed similar questions for camera consumers, just as tablets did for home computing. Canon CFO Toshizo Tanaka said; “We aren’t planning to compete face to face with smartphones. Instead, we will sell cameras that can provide quality that smartphones cannot give.

Are there alternatives to the Apple Watch?

We mentioned earlier that the Apple Watch isn’t the first smartwatch and nor will it be the last. So what are the alternatives available for those looking for a smartwatch? Android Wear incorporates a variety of well-known brands, including Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony. With an improved battery life and more affordable price tag, there’s certainly plenty to keep you interested. That said, many of the top watch brands, such as Breitling and Gucci, are said to be working on smartwatches of their own, with the latter teaming up with Will.i.am, although the price tag for these will no doubt be as hefty as the Apple Watch. Fashion brands Guess and Kenneth Cole are also looking to enter the market this year so we’re hoping for even more choice in stylish watches at an attractive price.

GUESS Connect

Bringing together fashion and smartwatch, the brand new GUESS Connect embodies all of the benefits of a smartwatch, with the classic style we’ve come to expect from a GUESS watch. Teaming up with Martian Watches, the brand have come up with an intelligent timepiece, available in two sizes (41mm and 45mm) and your choice of silicone or genuine leather band. There is also a variety of styles and colours to choose from, allowing the wearer to find the best fit with their individual style.

What’s more, it comes with an analogue quartz battery with a two year lifespan, while its additional power source takes care of the everyday technical functions of the smartwatch , and can last up to an impressive five days – Apple who?

Like other smartwatches, the GUESS Connect Smartwatch can receive text messages, social media alerts, and emails. With custom vibration for notifications and spoken response settings, the user can also initiate voice commands to set appointments, reminders, and to send a text.

Cindy Livingston, President and CEO of Sequel/Guess Watches, said:

“The GUESS Connect Smartwatch, Powered by Martian, represents one of the first true marriages of a fashion watch powerhouse and a wireless technology innovator. We are thrilled to move in this direction with a proven technology innovator to create smart, GUESS designs.”

The Guess Connect Smartwatch is due to launch in the US this autumn, with prices starting from about £268.

It’s clear that the fashion brands are upping their game, looking to offer the user something truly stylish, while staying on top of the technology trend. With a proven track record for providing the user with style, class and reliability – not to mention excellent battery life and purse-friendly price tags, it could be prudent to wait for the hype of the Apple Watch to settle and turn your eye to the future timepiece releases.