I think smartwatches are a really neat idea. It's been made clear to me — on Twitter, in the office, on the internet at large — that a lot of people disagree. With a burning passion. Let me try to explain to you why you are all wrong.
My life is an endless Pavlovian waltz. A ceaseless call-and-response between conditioned stimulus and conditioned reaction. My phone makes a noise (or a vibration), and I rush to turn it on and discover precisely what that noise (or vibration) means. This happens dozens upon dozens of times a day.
When my phone makes a noise, it is rarely in my hands. More often it is in my pocket, sometimes it is completely out of reach. This is an annoying hurdle between me and my conditioned needs.
I'm on the train to work, surrounded by a throbbing mass of agitated strangers. I don't want to elbow anyone in the kidneys but I need to know what just happened. I'm walking home from the bar and I've had a few. I'm in more-than-usual danger of dropping my phone as I carelessly rip it from my pocket but I need to know what just happened. I'm laying on the couch, excruciatingly comfortable after a long day of web logging. My phone is over by the desk but I need to know what just happened.
I don't want to read entire emails on my watch. I don't want to take pictures with my wrist. I don't want to shout at my arm like Dick Tracy. I do not want to watch YouTube videos on a 1.63-inch screen. I do not want or need "watch apps." But I do need to know what just happened. All I want is to cross the temporal gulf between knowing that something happened and knowing what happened with all due speed and convenience. Glancing at a screen that is affixed to my wrist and reading a snippet of text is a dream come true.
You might ask me why settle for a screen on my wrist — which requires the ludicrous effort of a glance — when I could just have a screen mounted in front of my eyes and be done with it. Well, I don't wear glasses most of the time, and I'd rather not start if I can avoid it.
But I already wear something on my wrist! And occasionally I look at it! It was designed to be glanced at! I mean come on you guys, this is perfect! Smartwatches are going to be awesome! How can anyone not see this?!
We're not there yet. Not at all. And if you want to say smartwatches are dumb in practice, I'd be stupid to argue. On one end of the sophistication spectrum, the Pebble is always on and simple, but has primitive physical buttons and is hideous. On the other, the Galaxy Gear has apps and a camera and isn't even a functional watch until you turn on the screen. The Qualcomm Toq seems to fall somewhere in the middle, but it's pretty biggish and doesn't have a price yet; I'll bet it's too high. Besides, that's not even intended for a wide release.
The perfect smartwatch is a matter of restraint. It will shunt phone notifications onto your wrist and little else. It'll be smallish, cheapish, able to get through a day or two without a charge. It'll be a competent digital watch that will show you things besides the time. Maybe it'll even let you pause your music, or keep your phone's lockscreen disabled when it's connected. A cheap, stylish smartwatch is by no means as impossible as something like, I don't know, a self-driving car. We're going to get there. How does this not sound fantastic to everyone? Why aren't you all as excited as I am that we are on the way?
In the meantime, smartwatches might only be attractive to dweebs like me who have (ever so slightly) more money than patience and don't mind wearing something a little chunky because function over form. That being the case, I swear I'm going to try to wait this out until things get better.
And then I'll scoff at your emails from awesome smartwatch-land, you losers.
Picture: Shutterstock user Maryna Pleshkun