Evolution of the Smart Watch by Jameson Thies
At the Mobile World Conference held recently in Barcelona, Samsung announced the updated version of the Galaxy Gear. In doing so, it firmly committed to the idea of a smart watch, which many people thought was only an experiment. With a tech giant like Samsung committing to a smart watch, and Apple expecting to release its own version in the next year or two, it seems like smart watches are here to stay. The question is how they got here.
First it is important to know what a smart watch is. A smart watch is anything worn on a wrist that tells time and can wirelessly connect to the internet. Most current smart watches can connect to your phone via Bluetooth, which then connects to the internet via Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G LTE. The technology evolved in a series of landmark updates that could revolutionize the idea of “smart” devices.
It all began in 2000 when IBM released the Watch Pad. The Watch Pad connected to Macs and PCs via Bluetooth. Its apps included a calendar, address book, notes, and four games. It only had a couple of hours of battery life, and by today’s standards its 320×240 display was terrible. Furthermore, with the huge price tag of $399 ($527 dollars today due to inflation), it was too expensive for people to buy and was discontinued in early 2002.
Next was the 2006 Microsoft Spot. These watches were a huge bust for Microsoft. The idea was for a watch that would change with time zones, give weather updates, and play music. It was going to be an all in one traveling convenience. The problem was the cost and a monthly data fee that could range from $20 – $30.
Smart watches as we know them today didn’t start to come into being until 2009. That was the year that Samsung released the S9110, which received a great deal of hype because of its thin design. The S9110 also had email and mp3 capabilities. The problem was that it was a “watch phone,” meaning that it was a phone, not just an accessory to a phone. Therefore it required its own phone bill and data plan. It also did not have the ability to text, and because it had to have its own phone number it needed to be a primary phone. In the end, it just wasn’t as complete as standard phones.
That problem was solved in 2012 with the Sony Smart watch. The Smart watch is a second screen for any android device. It has all the necessary functions expected in a watch, and is the first device on this list that is still being sold today.
The next big step forward was the Pebble Smart Watch. The Pebble is not only the bestselling smart watch, it also holds the record for the largest crowd funded product. On Kickstarter.com it obliterated its goal of raising $100,000 dollars by raising $10,266,845. It is compatible with both Apple and Android devices and can control music, serve as a GPS, send notifications, display weather and of course, tell time.
That brings us to Samsung’s new Smart Watch, the Galaxy Gear 2. It has many of the functionalities of a phone, including being able to make and receive calls, and can even take pictures. It also includes many of the features of the Pebble, like controlling music and reporting weather. On top of that it can also run apps like Twitter. There are just two real cons- it is only compatible with certain Samsung devices, and it has a relatively short battery life of about 2 days, not even half of the Pebble’s 5-7 day battery life. Aside from these minor issues, however, the Galaxy Gear 2 is a step in the right direction, and the future of smart watches looks very bright.