Smartwatch, Wearable

The Case for & Against: Smartwatches

Smartwatches have been around for quite some time now. Yet, there is no one smartwatch that truly stands out from the rest. In the Android landscape, Wear OS devices are mainly dominated by fashion brands, and even though Samsung’s recently renamed Galaxy Gear smartwatches are quite capable, Tizen OS has its own suit of problems. As for iOS, the only really viable smartwatch you can (and should) get is the Apple Watch.

So that brings up the question: is there a need to get a smartwatch? Does it complement a smartphone well enough for consumers to pick one up? In this article, we explore the case for – and against – smartwatches.

The Case Against

As with all gadgets you use daily, smartwatches need to be charged. Depending on which particular wearable you get, you’ll have to charge it up either once every two days, a week, or a month. What’s worse is if you forget to charge it up – you won’t be able to even tell the time with the smartwatch if it runs out of juice.

Aside from that, smartwatches in general don’t offer many meaningful features. While it’s nice to have the ability to swap watch faces whenever you feel like it and get notifications pushed to your smartwatch, the general user base might not find other features of a wearable necessary at all – the keyword here being “might.” We’ll get back to this further down this article.

More often than not, smartwatches are also dependent on a smartphone. Sure, there are smartwatches that can work independently to a certain extent, but you’ll still have to pair them to a phone to really take advantage of their full features. Some may argue that you have your phone with you all the time anyway, but this isn’t always possible or convenient.

Perhaps the best reason not to invest in a smartwatch is the fact that some of them can be really expensive. Take the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch: retailing at RM1,219, you can already get a very competent smartphone for that kind of money. You can go for a more budget-friendly smartwatch like the Xiaomi Amazfit Bip and Amazfit Pace – they retail at RM279 and RM549 respectively – but these won’t be quite as feature-rich as more expensive offerings.

Cost is something you’ll have to consider when shopping for a smartwatch, but what if you don’t mind splurging on one? If that’s the case, let’s take a look at a few reasons why you’d actually want to get a smartwatch.

The Case for

One of the biggest selling points of a smartwatch – to me, at least – is the convenience of having notifications on my phone pushed to my smartwatch. If it’s not an important notification, I won’t have to bother taking my phone out of my pocket. This sounds like a small thing, but it does save me the trouble of constantly checking my phone for any missed notifications – I wouldn’t have to focus so much on my phone.

Now, let’s get back to the topic of smartwatches “not offering many meaningful features.” While I personally don’t use a smartwatch for anything beyond getting pushed notifications, customising the watch face, and occasionally get my heart rate checked, there are certainly folks who will appreciate other features that come with a smartwatch.

This ties back to smartwatches that can work independently of a smartphone. Say you’d like to go for a quick jog in a nearby park: some smartwatches can track the route you take even though it’s not paired to a phone during your jog. The same goes for swimming too – there are wearables that can track your swimming routine. If you’re into activity tracking, a smartwatch can do just that for you.

Speaking of which, the Apple Watch Series 4 comes with several features never previously available on a smartwatch. The Watch’s ability to detect a hard fall is a neat addition, but the more exciting feature is the fact that it can now take an electrocardiogram (EKG) using electrodes built into the back of the Watch.

Essentially, an EKG reading can be used to detect irregular heartbeat rhythm, and the Apple Watch can then notify the user accordingly. This is the first time the feature comes built-in with a smartwatch out of the box, and it’s certainly a step closer to making wearables that much smarter. Whether or not the Watch can accurately take an EKG, however, is an entirely different question.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, smartwatches are not as ubiquitous as smartphones. Whether or not you need a small screen on your wrist is entirely dependent on each individual’s preference. If you don’t mind spending on a smartwatch, remembering to charge it up when necessary, and you actually appreciate the features it offers, then yes, it will serve you very well.