Wearables. Thoughts? (Sept. 2017)

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Prior to receiving the Fitbit Charge HR as a gift, I had negative perceptions on why I should ever feel inclined to buy a smartwatch, or any wearable for that matter. I also understand that the Fitbit is geared towards athletes and people who exercise, but it’s still an electronic device has to be charged. That gave me enough of a reason to consider it a wearable. Over the course of the past 6 months though, a lot has changed, but some things are still the same. Here, I’ll point out some benefits and flaws as well as my decision regarding the purchase of another wearable in the future.

The Pros

Notifications

Of course, the number one reason people would or should buy a wearable is for the notifications. You no longer have to whip out your phone, and instead you can see it on your wrist and decide whether it’s important enough to actually take action. Since I own a Charge HR it’s limited in terms of notifications, but what it did give me was caller id. Whenever I received a call, my Fitbit would vibrate and let me know that someone was calling me. I found this to be incredibly useful especially in situations when my phone was away from me. In one particular situation, my phone was in my room upstairs and I was downstairs doing the dishes. A few moments later, my Fitbit started to vibrate and I was able to instantly look at my wrist to see if I should answer it. It was definitely really convenient and I would have otherwise not known about it had I not owned a Fitbit. Other than that, the device didn’t really provide any other notification related to my phone like text messages since it’s a fitness tracker, but nonetheless it was handy having the caller id feature.

The Cons

Battery Life

I think one key issue between all devices of various types is that the battery life is simply not amazing. Of course there are some phones that last longer than others and some with newer battery saving features, but you still pretty much have to charge it every day. This is definitely apparent in the Fitbit. It’s not as bad as phones, but I find myself having to  charge it once every four to five days. That’s great, but that’s not really the case for other wearables like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear series. While the Fitbit lasts four to five days on a single charge, it also performs less actions, has a smaller screen and is a lot simpler, resulting in less battery consumption. Whereas the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear are smartwatches with bigger displays and provide more tough features. That drains the battery faster and requires a faster and more powerful processor. That being said, battery life for smartwatches are generally significantly less than fitness trackers. If there’s one major issue that all companies should focus on, it should be better and longer lasting battery technology.

Price

Luckily I received my Charge HR as a gift, but it normally retails for about $149.99. It’s not a cheap device. Granted it’s more of an upscale model and it offers more features, but it’s still expensive. That’s just for the fitness sector. When you move over to the smartwatch sector they usually start at about $149.99 for Android Wear based watches and steadily increase as the models become better. For now, the price is still too high for what they offer and I think that is another factor that is keeping consumers from purchasing one.

Usability

I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but after 6 months of using the Fitbit everyday, I eventually stopped using it, except at night when I would wear it to track my sleeping habits. Why? Well because it was annoying to have to constantly charge it once every few days. Sure, it’s a lot better than having to charge it every night, but it still has to be charged. I hated having another device to keep juiced up when I could just wear my watch and not have to worry about replacing the battery for months. That’s not to say the Charge HR was bad by any means, but that the usability lifetime was not that long. I was actually surprised that I even used it for 6 months. There were many times where the battery died on me and now I couldn’t check the time if I didn’t pull out my phone. Things like that became annoying for me and so I decided to no longer wear it during the day.

Wrap-Up

I have a lot more respect for companies who are trying to make elegant and practical devices. The wearable sector is fairly new and could have a lot of potential, but right now I just can’t see it becoming mainstream. Having instant notifications on your wrist is convenient, but that’s all it is. A smartwatch is built upon it’s convenience factor. Whereas other devices like a phone offer calling, texting, etc and a tablet is a great media consumption and companion device, the smartwatch doesn’t offer anything more than a phone can do. In fact, it may even be slower in certain circumstance. So would I personally purchase one in the future? The simple answer is no. I just don’t have a need for it. It’s too expensive and I already have a completely functional phone and custom PC. The only reason I use my Fitbit is for the sleep tracking feature and had it not been for that, I would most likely not be using it. However, if companies can lower the price and increase battery life and functionality I may reconsider, but for now the answer is no.

Photo Credit: Fitbit

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