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More than a teller of time: What to expect from a smartwatch - PC Retail

More than a teller of time: What to expect from a smartwatch

The ups and downs of the latest type of tech product for consumers
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The concept of the smartwatch isn't actually new. Japanese manufacturers introduced watches in the early '70s with digital user-programmable technology, though these watches were quite limited in functionality.

By the '80s, watches were introduced with rudimentary computer functionality, including keyboards and wireless docking. But those watches are to today's smartwatches what the Zach Morris phone is to today's smartphones: large and clunky with limited predecessors.

Considering purchasing a smartwatch? Here's what to expect.

1. Operating systems

You'll recognise the names and looks of all the available smartwatch operating systems, but the smartwatch OS will differ from the smartphone OS in the same way that your smartphone OS differs from the one on your desktop PC.

The size of the watch limits the way in which we can interact with the device. Just as you learned to use tablets after a lifetime of working with larger PCs and laptops, you'll similarly adjust to the smaller platform of the smartwatch.

2. Functions

You can expect the same functions from your smartwatch as you do your smartphone. Though the features available from one manufacturer to another or one model to another differ, there are smartwatches available with all the standard goodies, such as:

  • Phone 
  • Media player 
  • Bluetooth 
  • Camera 
  • Compass 
  • Calculator 
  • Touch screen 
  • GPS 
  • Date
  • Weather 

Oh, and smartwatches also tell the time, of course. Some models offer the features of a sports watch, including a thermometer, altimeter, barometer, training programs, heart rate monitor, and a dive computer.

Of all the features on a smartwatch, two of the most appreciated are how hard they are to drop and break, and how it's almost impossible to forget one in a taxi or a client's office when it's attached to your wrist. Also, with the phone on your wrist, you'll never risk missing an important call because you couldn't hear it ring.

3. Connectivity

Of course, it wouldn't be a smartwatch without wireless internet connectivity. As with your smartphone, most smartwatches offer multi-player gaming platforms, social media connectivity, email, news feeds, sports feeds, entertainment news, and other ways to connect with others online.

Smartwatches connect via the same technology as smartphones, meaning you can expect the newest models to come equipped with 4G connectivity. In some rural areas of the country, 3G is still the standard, so 4G isn't guaranteed anywhere you go, but smartphones experience the same limitations.

4. Apps

Smartwatch apps look and work much like smartphone apps. Along with the games, news, and social media apps, you'll find apps for fitness, banking and finance, business, and self-help apps. Some platforms require you to download an app to your smartphone before you can begin using your smartwatch.

Apps for smartwatches are available in the same app stores where you get your smartphone and tablet apps, and many are available for free. Still, the market for smartwatch apps is far from as rich and satisfying as the market for smartphone and tablet apps. But this should change as more smartwatches become available, increasing the market for app developers.

5. Possible downsides

As with any new technology, it takes manufacturers a while to tweak things to perfection. Smartwatches are generally larger than the watches most people are used to wearing, and it takes some wearers time to adjust to the extra size and weight.

As with smartphones, the screen is the primary battery hog, and most smartwatches have to be charged every three to four days. This is a long time to go without charging a smartphone, but most people aren't in the habit of charging their watches regularly.

Some users also feel silly using the phone feature of smartwatches. People look a bit like characters in a '60s spy flick talking into their watches. Others complain that talking on the smartwatch lacks privacy, since you can't hold it discreetly to your ear like a smartphone. Most smartwatch phones use speaker mode always, due to the design. Also, manufacturers are still working on creating a user interface that offers a worthy experience in such a small package.

It all comes down to a matter of taste. If you like being on the cutting edge of technology, smartwatches are easier to carry and harder to drop or leave behind than smartphones. You just have to deal with the tiny screen and keyboard and remember to charge it often. The latest models, however, are quite stylish and look nice with both business suits and casual street clothes.

Most smartwatch plans require an operative smartphone account to work, so you won't have to chose between your watch and your phone just yet.

Read more: Can wearable tech boost retail?

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