The Next Big Thing
Smartwatches: A revolution on your wrist?Analysts predict 5 million smartwatches will ship in 2014. CNET's Brian Cooley explains why they could have a real chance of success with consumers.
-You know, it's kind of fun these days telling folks about Google Glass and smart watches because they give you that look like, "What is wrong with you?" Then I wait for the Dick Tracy jokes to subside and then tell them how smart watches could have a real shot at ubiquity if they succeed in making our increasingly chaotic mobile devices simpler and more personal. -Welcome to the future. Just a moment. I just got a message. -You can put it up to your ear like this and take calls privately. -Swipe down to activate the built-in camera, which lets you snap still images in 10-second videos. -Other uses could be taking a picture with your phone remotely, or checking your route while you're on a run, or controlling the volume of your music. -A gentle swipe takes you from one feature to another. Going back is as simple as swiping down from the top bezel. -Canalys research predicts some 5 million smart watches could sell in 2014. Nobody really knows, but even that goal could be awfully lofty if smart watches as a group don't nail three things. First, look good. This is fashion, not just tech, but how many tech companies do you know are actually good at fashion? Apple is. Sony was. Google, Microsoft, not really. And startups like Pebble, they do have a certain new cache but not on established style language. Second, make sense. Not just making it clear how to use a smart watch, but why I would use one. The makers who get that done first, I think, will win first. Getting across the message that a smart watch can thin out and surface the important stuff on our increasingly busy and vertical phones and tablets. In other words, play the hits of digital living on my wrist. And third, measure me. The market for fitness wearables is real. Think of Fitbit Flex, Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up. Those overall will sell some 80 million units in 2014, over 200 million by 2018, and yet I don't think most people are gonna wanna wear both if they don't have to. So here is a place where smart watches could eat a lot of lunches if they can roll up that body matrix piece, that fitness piece as well.