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Tech & Gear: The Problem with Smartwatches

Words by Adam Kohlhaas

Digital technology is rapidly approaching levels that people in the 1970s could only dream about. We have portable phones that can record and send videos across the country, cars that can drive by themselves, and a global interconnected computer network interwoven with our lives and every piece of technology therein. Though not all of the futuristic ideas dreamt up in days past have come to fruition, one piece of technology continued to itch in the back of peoples minds for years: the smartwatch.

Wristwatches have undergone a bevy of alterations over the past several decades. From mechanical, to quartz, to calculator, to mini-television, the watch has continued to change and evolve with the times (whether it wanted to or not). The latest iteration involves cramming the power of a mini-tablet into the small confinements of a wristwatch in our continued efforts to create useful, wearable tech. There have been several great examples of this so far: the Moto 360, LG G Watch R, and the Pebble have all been rather successful in the market amongst tech enthusiasts living at the bleeding edge. However, one company had been noticeably absent from the race: Apple.

Whether you are a fan of the company or not, one must admit that they have had a significant impact on the direction of portable tech over the past two decades. While they most certainly did not invent the portable MP3 player, the iPod ushered in a new era of digital music and the iPhone long stood as a testament to the power of sleek design and brilliant marketing. Many fans stayed out of the smartwatch scene—awaiting the day when Apple would create the definitive version for them to proudly adorn their wrists with. However, after the Apple Watch was officially unveiled, even the power of Apple did not seem to be able to quell that interminable question that has plagued the smartwatch from day one: does this make our lives better?

While the Apple Watch upholds the company’s sleek design standards, there have been several concerns that have yet to be addressed. Battery life with any smartwatch is always an issue, and while Apple claims the battery may last 18 hours, that comes nowhere near the rated battery life of some of their competitors. Another point of contention that narrows the Apple Watch’s target market is the fact that many of the main functions of the watch require the wearer to already possess an iPhone. However, it seems that the real question that Apple’s new product has renewed is about what the smartwatch does for us in our daily lives. It could be argued that the internet has changed everything, that the smartphone has increased our productivity, and that MP3 players and e-books make entertainment more accessible, but what does the smartwatch bring to the table?

Perhaps the smartwatch doesn’t need to be an ingenious piece of innovative tech that makes our lives easier. Perhaps all it needs to be is the next iteration of the wristwatch in a long line of wristwatches. Or maybe we have yet to catch a glimpse of the definitive smartwatch that can prove to us that it is a mainstay of the gadget scene. In any case, I will be sitting this one out for now, but I look forward to watching it evolve, and hopefully some day soon the smartwatch will be something we can all be happy to have in our lives.

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