04/09/2014 11:43 BST | Updated 03/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Until Brands Get Smart, It's Not Time to Ditch Your Stupid Watch

A confession - I'm not a smartwatch fan. They're nearly all ugly, crap battery and over-engineered. Also, I like normal watches, with nice dials and nice straps. Smartwatches stink of innovation by public companies to drive sales and share value. I'm perfectly happy having a smartphone and a stupid watch.

How many people really wear a watch purely to tell the time? And if it's purely functional, why not spend £20 on a plastic one? Watches are a fashion item, a fashion statement.


On the eve of the launch of The Samsung Gear S Smartwatch - complete with Curved Screen and 3G connectivity - I can say definitively that smartwatches like this will simply not sell in volume.

I reserve judgement on the iWatch, which may now be launching sooner than predicted. Given Apple's history, I'm sure we should expect a lot (and I have it on good authority that it's spectacular). As for the smartphone market as a whole, this move should shake it up, leading to increased investment and development from other innovators including Sony and Motorola - most importantly though, Google.

If smartwatches are to really take off in the future, it will be driven by watch manufacturers themselves becoming more smart. It's a bit like the electric car. Yes, Tesla are doing really well and producing great cars but I reckon in the next 5 years, BMW (i8) and other major car manufacturers will sell more electric cars than pureplay electronic car manufacturers.

For all my cynicism, I'll freely admit there is potential - namely for those areas smartphones have failed to deliver on. On-the-go mobile payments could find a home on the smartwatch, especially tapping into iBeacons. They are also spot on for health and fitness, satellite navigation on foot, 'checking-in', storing travel and ticket details - imagine the ease of flicking your wrist at an Oyster card reader. But they'd have to be designed and packaged as a nice watch, rather than a gadget last best suited to Marty McFly and his hoverboard.

Another key point is the target. 'Generation Z' (born from 1995 onwards) who communicate primarily through pictures and emoticons, unlike the generation before them raised with the good old SMS 'lol', are a prime audience. For a start, the smartwatch of the future could be a wearable Selfie machine and Google Voice will provide the tool for any written WhatsApp messages. As for calling, no problem - we know Gen Z tends to pick up the phone as a last resort. But to tap into this market, accessibility and branding is critical.


So, to the smartwatch future. A battle between Apple and Google in a second OS arms race will bring the first benefits to the market in the short term. But whether it will lead me to swap my Italian leather for wraparound plastic anytime soon remains to be seen.