Smart devices have exploded in popularity and ubiquity over the last decade. With new phones and TVs bringing internet connectivity, streaming media, and diverse applications to consumers, manufacturers are shifting their sights toward a new field — wearable tech. While the convenience of a smartphone is currently unmatched, it may look passé in the next few years as smart watches, glasses and even clothes become more commonplace.
But how does wearable tech benefit the average person? Is it worth the investment of your time and money now? Or, like a lot of new gadgets, is it worth waiting a while longer?
If you already own a smartphone or laptop with up-to-date software, it will likely work with the same brand of smartwatch. For example, an iPhone user can easily start making calls, setting reminders and even checking text messages on an Apple Watch after pairing them.
Con: Limited Usability
Given their smaller size, smartwatches do have limitations. You’ll need to have your phone nearby for a lot of the communication features and, depending on the model, the battery life could be shorter than you’re used to with your other devices.
Pro: Form Factor
Given that a smartwatch sits on your wrist instead of in your pocket or hand, it opens up a few possibilities that other smart devices don’t have. For one, the convenient location means it’s less likely to get lost. If you’re like me and always searching for your phone that you just set down, a smartwatch might fix your problem. Another major feature of wearable tech is the apps that can harvest all kinds of useful information for you, such as your sleep and exercise habits, blood pressure and heart rate, and more. If you’re interested in tracking your health, a smartwatch can give you a whole new level of control.
Con: Privacy Concerns
It’s worth saying that all that data mentioned above doesn’t just sit on the watch — it’s sent back to the developers of the apps you use and, while usually anonymized, enables some pretty invasive practices like targeted advertisements. Data breaches and hacks may also leave the location, behavioral, and health data of users vulnerable to bad actors as well.
Pro: Flexibility and Options
According to Businesswire, 266.3 million units of “smart wearables” were shipped worldwide in 2020, and that is expected to nearly triple to 776.23 million units by 2026. That boom is already benefiting consumers by bringing costs down and the number of choices up. Phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, as well as GPS company Garmin and the fitness-focused Fitbit, are all betting big on smart wearables like watches, bracelets and even glasses, meaning that you can shop around until you find the right fit for you.
Con: The “Walled Garden”
When you start up a brand new Windows laptop, it will recommend you browse the web using Microsoft Edge, store your files on Microsoft OneDrive and connect to your Android phone with an app called “Your Phone.” When you do the same with an Apple device, it will recommend the Safari web browser, storage with iCloud and pairing your iPhone with iMessage. Every brand likes to keep users in what critics call the “walled garden.” They make it as easy as possible to connect devices to each other — as long as they’re all the same brand. Step outside of that “walled garden” by, say, owning an Android phone and an Apple smartwatch, and things start to get tricky. If a new piece of smart tech looks interesting to you, make sure it plays nice with your existing devices — or be prepared to jump through hoops and potentially lose features.
Like phones and TVs before them, commonplace consumer goods like watches and glasses are about to get a whole lot more powerful -- whether you’re looking to ride the wave of new technology or are content to keep it old school, knowing the pros and cons of wearable tech can help you make informed decisions.