Is it really time for the Smart Watch?

By Sam Milkman, President, knowDigital

Right now, Apple’s got most of us talking about the iPhone 5C, 5S and next week’s release of iOS7 including iTunes Radio. However missing from yesterday’s excitement was any mention of the rumored iWatch. An iWatch announcement could come next month, but perhaps Apple is checking its swing after watching Samsung, Sony and others receive tepid reaction from consumers. Consumer electronics industry analysts might say Apple is working out production issues while trying to shave size and cost, but I believe a larger branding issue is lurking.

As in any digital product, having cool technology is one thing, but offering something useful and compelling is another. Cool technology alone is not enough; a product must serve a need, either existing or newly revealed. We discuss this distinction at length here on our website.

What need does the smart watch serve? Samsung’s slogan for Galaxy Gear is “Smart Freedom,” which says very little to me. Beneath that somewhat empty slogan, Samsung bores me with details of processor speed, display size and other technical minutia on their website. This is not the stuff that builds a brand, establishes emotional connection with the product or tells me what I would do with one. Sure, the Galaxy Gear tells time, shows me the weather, allows me to read an email or text and play with a few more apps, but do I need or want all that on my wrist? Maybe I do, but Samsung has not done much to make me feel that way.

Sony does a slightly better job making the case for a smart watch on their website. Slogan: “Within reach.” Okay, so I don’t have to reach for my phone to figure out what time it is, or read a few texts. But will I spend another $299 just so that I don’t have to reach into my pocket for my Smart Phone? Moreover, even if we understand the purpose of the product, at what point will consumers reach a point of “connected overload.” Right now, I check the same emails on at least three different devices—my iPhone, my laptop and on my iPad. While I may have found a place for all three of these amazing devices in my life, at what point is enough enough? Does anyone really want or need another way to access the same things we do on our computers and phones? Some of us are spending time trying to get away from the “connected” world, not closer to it.

I realize that the same questions were probably written about the iPad on the eve of its release, and tablet sales are now predicted to exceed laptop sales this year. What’s more, Apple certainly has a way of making the case for adding new devices to our lives. But so far, it does not appear that Samsung, Sony or others have made a strong case for the smart watch. Only time will tell!

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