As recently as two decades ago it was almost inconceivable that a huge proportion of the population would be carrying devices around in their pockets capable not just of making calls and sending texts but also connecting to the internet, taking photographs and even acting as a diary. But today we find ourselves with smartphones that can do all these things and more.
The online gambling and mobile gaming revolution has been great news financially for the manufacturers as well as for the many developers of the apps that help to transform them into such powerful pieces of kit. But technology moves ever onwards and it wasn’t long after the smartphone became so dominant that manufacturers also started looking into the world of wearable technology in general and the smartwatch in particular.
It’s a concept that had been along for some time – it could even be claimed that it dates back to the 1920s when a wrist-held device was made which could hold scrolling maps to show you the route for your automobile of the time.
On a more serious note, the first device that we would really consider to be a smartwatch as we see them today was probably the Sony Smartwatch first marketed only four short years ago. Designed to accompany the Sony Xperia range of phones it opened the floodgates for other manufacturers like Pebble, Samsung and Moto to follow suit.
But, surprisingly for a company with such a strong record for creating new product categories, it wasn’t until 2015 that Apple introduced their first watch.
As with the first Sony watch, in all of these cases the smartwatches of today are primarily designed to work in unison with a smartphone. So, for example, instead of having to scroll through a long email on a small watch screen, they are probably best used as devices for signalling that there’s a message waiting to be read on the larger screen of a phone.
That’s not to say that the smartwatch doesn’t have any unique features of its own that offer advantages over the phone. The most obvious is that it’s always there on your wrist, easy to glance at – and hard to leave behind in a restaurant or shop. It’s also uses less power than a phone so it’s far less likely to leave you stranded with a dead battery.
Its constant presence on your wrist has also meant that the smartwatch can make it simplicity itself to do anything from make a contactless payment in a shop to monitor our fitness. There are also more and more apps being developed to increase the potential of the smartphone to do anything from have a video chat with a friend to be able to enjoy online gaming wherever we may be.
As to whether the experts and futurologists think that the day will come and we ditch our smartphones in favour of a watch, most are sceptical. The general consensus is that the physical limitations of the watch means it will always need to be connected to a larger device with more computing power if we’re to exploit its full potential. But one thing most agree is that a lot more wrists are going to be sporting these devices in the future.