What Will Make Smartwatches Mainstream? NFC

Sony SmartWatchTablets have changed the way we consume media, smartphones changed the way we talk to others, email changed the way we send messages. So here’s a question: What gadget, which we use every day, hasn’t changed much in close to a century?

Watches.

It just seems no one’s come up with a way to add real value to a device that tells time. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t trying.

Early smartwatches from companies like Sony are already on the market, though they haven’t gone mainstream. Will they ever?

Obvious Features

The immediate advantage of a wrist watch is that it’s… attached to your wrist. You don’t have to dig into your pocket to use it, and that translates into convenience. The potential likes in using this always-ready instrument into something that does more than just tell time.

Most smartwatches available, or soon to be available, are essentially meant to be smartphone companions. Other than telling the time, their primary function is to buzz you whenever your smartphone receives a notification of some sort. With a built-in vibration, they make sure you never miss an important reminder or call.

They’re also good candidates to be exercise trackers, though they’d have to be able to track GPS independently. Let’s face it: No one wants to carry their phone in their pocket or armband when they’re out running.

Given their limited screen size, however, you probably wouldn’t consume complex information on a smartwatch, like an email or Facebook status. Such features may look good on paper, but aren’t practical in reality.

So, a smartwatch should serve as a passive information conveyor that requires minimum interaction. Features that demand anything more than simply swiping away notifications are better served on a smartphone, which can handle those more complex inputs and outputs.

The Ultimate Feature

Call me short-sighted, but I still don’t see how NFC on smartphones can simplify how we pay for things. When we dig into our pockets for an NFC-enabled credit card, we’re doing essentially the same thing as we would to grab a smartphone. The mechanics are largely unchanged.

In a sense, it’s even more troublesome to pay using your smartphone, since you’ll waste time entering passcode and opening the payment app. (The plus side is that it’s more secure and you can record and track your transactions more efficiently.)

A NFC-enabled watch would make the solution more viable. It’s much simpler to wave your wrist in front of a payment terminal than to for your plastic card or smartphone. If the watch is paired to your phone, you can still receive a digital receipt.

Whatever the technology behind it, there’s no doubt in my mind that NFC could kick smartwatches into the mainstream, especially when the technology has been widely accepted by merchants.

What capabilities would you like to see on a smart watch before you are willing to spend money on one? Tell me in the comments below.

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Photo: Steve Wright, Jr., via Flickr

Comments

  1. BY James E. LaBarre says:

    To me, a “smart watch” is one that tells me the correct time. Anything else is worthless. The same as it is with mobile phones; it needs to make/receive phone calls; any other function is unnecessary.

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