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Handhelds Apple Hardware

Can Even Apple Make a Watch Insanely Smart? 196

theodp writes "Throwing some cold water on the buzz surrounding the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch launch, The New Yorker's Matt Buchanan questions how smart a watch can really be. Calling offerings like the Galaxy Gear useful but not the stuff of dreams and revolutions, Buchanan writes, 'So there remains a strange undercurrent of hope that somebody-Apple-will figure out, soon, some grander vision for wearable technology, transforming it from something that people have vaguely imagined into something people intensely desire. It did it for smartphones, once, and again, for tablets. The question that Apple has been charged with, since nobody has definitively answered it yet, is whether the lack of an invention that truly carries us beyond the last five hundred years of wrist-mounted technology is the result of a failure of imagination or simply a fact of nature-that a watch will always just be a watch, no matter how smart it might think it is.' So, will you be an early adopter and drink Samsung's or Sony's smartwatch Kool-Aid, wait to see what Apple comes up with, or hold out for a Windows Forearm Pad 8?"
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Can Even Apple Make a Watch Insanely Smart?

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  • missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @08:44AM (#44789125) Homepage Journal

    It doesn't have to be "incredibly smart". It just has to be smart in the right places.

    The original iPhone didn't really do anything that wasn't available elsewhere already. But it bundled the proper things together in the proper way and had the proper design to make it all work well. I had owned several PDAs before, but the iPhone was the PDA I had always wanted.

    Same for the watch. My bet is that while everyone else is working on cramming as much crap into the watch as possible. Apple is busy making sure there is no crap on it, only the right mix of the right stuff you really want on your wrist.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @08:45AM (#44789135)

    The trouble everyone is grappling with here is that they want a smart watch to be some kind of smartphone-like thing. We've seen it work in comics, right? Dick Tracey and all. The only trouble is that the size of things people want to put on their wrists isn't big enough for much of a display, isn't big enough for much of a data entry device and isn't big enough for much of a battery. You just can't pack a lot of function on there, much less do it attractively, much less do it in a form factor where it becomes a fashion accessory, particularly for ladies since ladies are used to tiny watches.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @08:47AM (#44789143) Homepage Journal

    I'm not so quick in discounting them, even though the effect of Steve's passing has been quite obvious.

    But Apple never was a one-man show, even though he took the spotlight. From all I know, Steve's strength was not in designing or creating anything, but in inspiring others and, most importantly, his ability to cut through the crap to the core issues and to kill anything that sucked. Where other companies spend time and resources on bad products (and sometimes even bring them to market), Steve would just kill it brutally with a few words and everyone could go back to making something good.

  • by halexists ( 2587109 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @08:58AM (#44789195)

    When you look at the iPhone, Apple figured out how to make it do stuff people craved to do over and over, but not gadgety stuff that sounds sci-fi cool and you only want to try out once. The Samsung watch has a LOT of cool tech packed into it, but reported lagginess will kill it in the market. Nobody wants to wait to interact with their watch.

    To expound on what the right mix of stuff probably is for a watch, the focus should be on things that people will want to do multiple times a day, and things that take less time than the same task on a smartphone (a tall order to be sure). The only way a "smartwatch" gains traction is by adding utility in two areas: 1) you couldn't do something without that specific form factor and 2) you could pull your phone out of your pocket/purse, but it's faster to just use the watch.

    That is a tall order of niche to fill with a device that will cost at least a couple of bills. And if it can't do those things reliably (i.e. pairing issues, responsiveness) then nobody cares. I would give Apple the best odds at pulling it off if anyone can in this decade.
  • Re:Wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @09:27AM (#44789307) Homepage Journal

    Japanese phones with contactless payment allows you to pre-authorize certain services. For example you could pre-authorize Japan Rail, then when you want to use the train you just brush against the payment pad as you go through the barrier. No danger of accidentally paying for anything else.

    In any case I don't think the accidental payment issue is a major one. There have been incidents of it happening but only because the payment machines have had too much range. Once the banks get on top of that an make sure the machines only work up to about 10mm it will be fine. The banks are obviously keen to prevent accidental payments and improve the customer's experience, and so are the retailers because it costs them money when it happens. The system has been in use in Japan for a decade now and works just fine, the teething problems having long since been worked out.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @10:22AM (#44789603)

    Frankly, I don't understand why people are so enamored with their offerings.

    Because they are well made, easy to use, have a well thought out interface and for the most part require very little fiddling to work. My 94 year old technologically illiterate grandmother is able to effectively utilize an iPad while at the same time I am able to get what I want out of an iPhone and I'm about big a tech geek as you are likely to run into. What makes Apple products attractive and different is the software.

    They don't do anything different in my opinion.

    Ahh but they do and those differences are what people are willing to pay for. What you have to understand is that Apple is fundamentally a software company. Steve Jobs himself has said so [] explicitly. What is different about Apple's products is the software and what it does. It's not so much about them doing tasks that no one else can do as it is how they do those tasks. Apple (usually) provides a well designed and well executed experience and software is how they tie it all together. People buy Macs for the software - the hardware is barely different from PCs from Dell or HP. People buy iPods, iPhones and iPads for the software. The hardware isn't much different from the competition and in fact some competitors have rather slavishly copies Apple's designs. What Apple does differently is found in their software.

    I prefer the Android approach that "opens the innovation tent" to everyone willing to give it a shot.

    Nothing wrong with that but there are positives as well as drawbacks. If you are someone (like me and probably you) who really likes to fiddle with your gear then Android might very well be a better choice. But for my non-tech savvy relatives who just want a smartphone I point them at an iPhone. Not everyone wants to endlessly mess around with arcane features of their phones. Apple's products aren't for everyone but Apple has never pretended that they were. That said they sell an awful lot of product so they clearly are doing something that appeals to a lot of people.

  • Re:yeesh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @10:28AM (#44789631)

    Oh please give us a break. As if only Apple can figure anything out. I find it humorous how much they copied from Android into iOS the last few rounds.

    There's the one thing that companies like Samsung can't find out without copying Apple (as demonstrated by that horror watch that Samsung released): What features to add and more importantly, what features to leave out.

  • Re:Already Got One (Score:2, Insightful)

    by webmistressrachel ( 903577 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @10:48AM (#44789753) Journal

    You're definitely more likely to be a shill, based on the comment you replied to, and your carefully written but spurious argument and "high horse". You reek of "corporate responsibility" and all the duplicity that goes with that.

    First of all, why have we got any reason to believe that if someone were promoting Pebble for reward, they'd make a dumb anecdotal comment and ju st give the link?

    Since the Pebble is a) more open (computing-wise), b) a lot cheaper and c) a commodity (replacable) item, as opposed to the iWatch's inevitable proprietory platform and vendor lock-in (Will it work fully )with anybody else's smartphones?), anybody promoting it would likely point out these things, and others, giving us REASON to click the link and buy.

    You're using words like lamer, implying things you can't possibly read into the comment, like whether he understands what "we" want - this also simultaneously implies that you speak for all of us (if you want something like and iWatch, iPad etc. - you definitely don't speak for all of us!!)

    This is the exact same manipulation technique used by shills (government and corporate) to control our purchasing and thought patterns - resulting in the system of control and manipulation Apple et. al. are at the top of right now.

    tl;dr: He accuses the parent of being a shill, his comment makes it look more the other way round.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:03AM (#44789885) Homepage Journal

    You, Sir, have no idea what the heck you are talking about.

    You still think that technology matters, but it frankly doesn't, or very little. It's not who has the coolest widgets, it is who can make it work.

    All the PDAs at that time, all of them, without exception, were toys. Average people wouldn't touch one with a ten foot pole. Heck, I'm an IT guy and I considered them barely useable. In fact, for serious stuff I even moved back to paper and pen.

    The iPhone was, above all, useable. No, more then that, it was a pleasure to use. That's why it essentially started the smartphone market even though smartphones had been around for quite a while already.

  • by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:08AM (#44789919)

    I think that what a smartwatch needs to be is as a "companion device" to a phone, and nothing more.
    It needs a screen, two buttons (or areas to tap) for "Yes" and "No" and low-bandwidth communication with the phone. The phone tells the watch what to display and what the buttons mean. The watch then needs only to reply with "Message understood, displaying screen", "Yes" and "No". That's it.
    All the "killer apps" that a smartwatch could be used for require those things and nothing more.

    The Samsung watch and many stand-alone smartwatches are too powerful, too feature-rich and already too bloated. The Samsung watch is already too large to wear comfortably on the wrist. Has anyone mentioned battery life yet? My Casio has a battery life measured in years.

  • Re:Another Fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Plumpaquatsch ( 2701653 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @03:39PM (#44791763) Journal
    Nothing is funnier than a Techno Hipster making fun of somebody wearing a wrist watch while he unpacks his phablet to check the time.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission