Year in review 2014

2014: The year smartwatches died

The excitement for smartwatches that kicked off this year has devolved into widespread disappointment.

Apple Watches

Something borderline amazing happened to me last weekend… a couple arrived at my house wearing matching smartwatches. I consider that amazing because these smartwatches were only the second and third I've ever seen on the wrists of real people in the wild. The first was at a tech conference over the summer, and that one turned out to be a freebie from the Google I/O conference. And I live in San Francisco, the de facto capital of the tech world.

I’m actually very interested in buying and wearing a smartwatch, but I still haven’t found one that meets my relatively modest list of needs:

  1. The ability to tell the time without pushing a button
  2. Activity tracking
  3. Sleep tracking
  4. Ability to read alerts, message header, and texts
  5. Full-day battery life
  6. Compatibility with iOS and Android smartphones
  7. At least as stylish as a mid-level traditional watch, without announcing itself to people 30 feet away

Like many people, I had high hopes for the Apple Watch, but the company’s fall announcement brought with it mixed reviews. And more to the point, unlike most Apple hardware announcements that are quickly followed by product availability, the actual product launch won’t happen until 2015.

See also: Apple Watch stands out… for all the wrong reasons

In the meantime, I was excited by initial reports of the Microsoft Band and FitBit Surge. I hoped that the Band would deliver smartwatch functionality in a cool, fitness band form factor. But reviewers have found the device’s design clunky and awkward to wear, while many of the functions don’t seem to work properly. I still like the idea of a fitness band that functions like a smartwatch, but I’m still waiting for someone to deliver a device that meets those expectations.

I’m also still waiting for the FitBit Surge, which seemed like it could address the issue from the other direction, bringing fitness band features to a fairly attractive smartwatch form factor. Alas, the Surge won’t be out in time for the 2014 holiday season either.

See also: Fitbit Surge and Microsoft Band: New wearables point toward the future

Put it all together and the smartwatch hype has so far delivered… not much except more hype. When it comes to smartwatches, 2014 has been an epic fail. With apologies to Samsung Gear, the Moto 360, the Pebble, and others, there really isn’t a single smartwatch I’m interested in wearing—and I’m really interested in wearing a smartwatch.

I don't believe I’m the only one facing this conundrum, which is why I think smartwatch makers blew a huge opportunity this year. The delays and disappointments mean that I’m now considering giving up and buying a new traditional watch (or asking for one as a holiday gift… hint, hint), which would likely take me out of the potential smartwatch market, at least for the foreseeable future.

I’m hopeful that 2015 will be the year that smartwatches finally rise from the dead to become viable options for mainstream consumers, but for now, smartwatches are dead to me.

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