10 MUST-HAVE FEATURES IN A SMART WATCH
The smartwatch industry seems to evolved very quickly in such a short time. The rumors about an Apple iWatch smartwatch and the uber successful Pebble crowd funding on Kickstarter seemed to make many companies accelerate their planning to release their own smartwatch devices as soon as possible. Some analysts called the smartwatch a pre-mature and niche product, but that doesn’t stop many companies to release some very innovative products.
There are some companies that really did an amazing job I have to say. Neptune Pine is a remarkable Android-derived smartwatch with phone capabilities, GEAK watch boasts tons of sensors, WiFi, NFC, GPS and Bluetooth 4.0 and Filip smartwatch acts as a smart location and phone for kids. In just a short time we’ve seen some amazing products and that’s just the beginning — so you just can wonder what we expected to see next.
In this article I want to talk about 10 must-have features that I think many people would love to have on their next smartwatch. If you find some features that you don’t see in the following list and you really want to have those on your smartwatch, please leave a comment below and tell us what those are.
Customizable Watchfaces — a Watchface is the visual design of the clock. Because smartwatches are digital watches, every smartwatch should have an option to allow people to customize the digital clock watch face to their liking. Pebble is among those smartwatch companies who did a remarkable work — allowing Pebble watch owners to customize the watchfaces in various ways via code. This lead for various online services like mypebblefaces.com to offer a service to install and share watchfaces. watchface-generator.de allows you to create your own watchface and download it to your pebble smartwatch. This feature should be available on all smartwatches, as the clock will probably the home screen of many smartwatches — at least a part of it.
Touch sensitive display and Virtual keyboard — Not all the smartwatches on the market have a touchscreen. This is in my opinion a must have feature. The days are gone where we needed to use buttons to operate our smartphone, the same should apply to smartwatches as well. Buttons are clumsy and navigating menus using buttons is cumbersome. A touchscreen with multi-touch gestures is the way to go. It simplified the UI navigation and operations that are available for the user, making it easier and faster to operate the watch. Some of you might worry that due to the small screen size, there won’t be an option to use a full QWERTY virtual keyboard. I have good news for you, the Neptune Pine (Android-based smartwatch) has a full size QWERTY virtual keyboard. It does have less buttons than the smartphone, but all the letters are there — and each key is the same size as on the iPhone!
Replaceable watch straps— this is in my opinion another must have feature on smart watches. There will probably no be many ways to customize the smartwatch. The watch strap will probably be among the only physical parts of the smartwatch that can be customized. Furthermore, the smartwatch is also a wearable fashion accessory, and people will want to match the color of their watch to their clothes. I would prefer my watch to be the same color as my shoes and belt. I would appreciate an option to change my smartwatch strap to one with a different color. We might even see a smartwatch with replaceable frame that comes in different colors. I also would like the ability to change my smartwatch strap from a rubber to a metal one too. A replaceable strap is a must in my opinion and I assume that consumers will opt to buy the one that offers the most customizability options
Voice-to-text and Voice Commands — Being able to control the watch and input text using your voice is a very handy feature. Unlike the smartphone which offers a very convenient virtual keyboard, most smartwatches will have a limited display size. Even with the Pebble offering a full virtual QWERTY keyboard, it would be great to have an option to input text via voice.
You probably ask yourself who’s gonna use it? — For me it would be very useful when I am running and doing my daily sport activities, to have the option to reply to Facebook messages and SMS messages by just saying what I want to type and send the message. Also it would be very handy to have the option to control the functionality of the smart watch via voice commands. The smartwatch has a limited screen size and relatively small resolution. I don’t want to start browsing through tens of home screen pages just to find a specific app. Being able to just use voice commands to launch an app can be very useful and save time.
Waterproof Watch — Have to be honest with you. I thought that most smartwatches will be waterproof. I expected it to be the same as a conventional wristwatch. Unfortunately this is not the case. Most smartwatches that I’ve reviewed on my blog are not submersible and are water-resistant / splash-resistant rather than having IPX7/IPX8 ingress protection rating (aka waterproof). I don’t want to remember to take off my watch when I enter the pool, wash my hands or ruin my expensive smartwatch by mistakenly going to the shower while wearing it. I want a waterproof smartwatch that fits my active lifestyle. I’m sure that most people will want that too.
Making and Receiving Phone Calls — When we look at the smartwatches currently available on the market, we can divide them into two main group: those with voice call capabilities (aka watchphones) and those without. For example, the Neptune Pine is a phone for all intents and purposes. It accepts a micro-SIM card and you can use that smartwatch to make and receive phone calls. Sony SmartWatch SW2 and Pebble are not watchphones, you can use those smartwatches to make and receive phone calls.
I know that some people will probably won’t need it, and some smartwatches will have the option to place and receive phone calls via the smartphone using Bluetooth / Wi-Fi — However, I think that many people will be glad to have a smart watch device which is independent from their smartphone. Furthermore, some might consider either leaving their smartphone at home or completely replace their smartphone with a smartwatch device. Having this option in hand could be great, letting the user to choose how and when he wants to use the smartwatch as a smartphone device.
Android-based OS and Installable Apps — I think that smartwatches that uses an operating system that derived from the Android platform will be the most successful ones, and let me tell you why. Smartwatches like i’m watch, Sony SmartWatch and Pebble runs on a proprietary operating system that is not based on the Android open source platform. This means that developers will need to adopt to a new platform and even learn a new language to develop apps for a specific smartwatch operating system.
When using an Android-derived OS you gain several advantages. First of all, although you might expect to have a new dedicated SDK and APIs, but those will extend upon the original Android SDK. Second, you can continue to develop apps using the Java language and work with the same tools that you use to develop apps for Android smartphones and tablets. Third, I assume that most Android-based smartwatches will be compatible with all Android apps that are already available on Google Play. That means that you will have a direct access to about 800,000 apps and games that are already available on Google Play. Their might be some incompatibility issue, but this is the way to go. In time, many developers will create apps that are designed exclusively for Android-based smartwatches. The smartwatch that will attract more developers to develop for its smartwatch platform will be the winner. The obvious choice of course is choosing Android as the base operating system.
Long Battery Life and Replaceable Battery — having a long battery life is crucial. No one wants to have a smartwatch on his wrist that doesn’t work. One of the problems that manufactures have with smartwatches is that they can’t use a large battery due to the watch small size factor. From what I’ve seen, CPU manufactures are pushing the technology forward to create processors that are much more energy-efficient. For example, the GEAK Watch employs Ingenic JZ4775 1GHz ultra-low power processor. This helps the GEAK watch to offer 12 days of standby time using a 330mAh lithium polymer battery.
Smartwatches have a small display and relatively low resolution, so by default they are more power efficient. Furthermore, most smartwatches will probably display a power-saving watchface on a black background to cut the power consumption, rather than having an Android-like lock screen. We can also expect most waterproof smartwatches not to come with a replaceable battery. Unlike some smartphones that have unibody design where the battery is not replaceable, with smartwatches it’s important to make the watch waterproof, but with an option to replace the battery in the lab when the battery dies. I have a watch that is waterproof up to 50 meters and when my battery died, I sent it to the official watch lab to replace the battery. This should be the same with smartwatches.
Health-tracking Sensors — health tracking sensor are the new trend. Just by looking at the success of Scanadu Scout on indiegogo (raised $1,664,574) , a device that reads your vital signed and send them to your smartphone, we can understand the demand for such feature for many people. The GEAK Watch is probably the most impressive smartwatches when it comes to health-related sensors. The GEAK Watch comes with body temperature sensor, heartbeat sensor, blood pressure sensor, pulse and pedometer to count your steps when running or walking
The presence of health-oriented sensors can give birth to many new type of heath related apps that will help us track our health. the GEAK Watch can even track your sleeping patterns and recommend you how to sleep better. The possibilities are endless, and these are probably apps that most people should use on a regular basis. When you have a clear picture of your health, it will urge you to keep your body healthy, stop smoking and start walking and make sure that you keep your body in top shape. I’m sure that future smartwatches will have those type of sensors as well and developers can start developing great new apps that take advantage of them.
Built-in Camera — Just think how cool it was if you could have a camera with you all the time on your wrist. A camera that can take pictures and record videos, even without the need to take the watch of your hand. The Neptune Pine smart watch features a VGA front facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera with LED flash. And it can also record high-definition videos as well. You can use the front-facing camera for video chats too. If Neptune Pine has it, I’m pretty sure Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft and many other companies that are still yet to enter the smartwatch market will come up with a smartwatch that have a built-in camera.
Why is it so important you ask? — the main reason it’s so important is that most of the most successful apps are using the camera. People love taking and sharing photos and this is probably the most engaging and fun thing to do on a mobile device. This is why smartwatch manufactures should put a built-in camera in their smartwatches, this is just a must have feature.
These are just a few features that I think should be on most smartwatch devices, especially from the large companies whom, most probably, won’t release niche products like the Filip watch.