Could the smartwatch ever replace the smartphone?

It has been almost seven years since Apple revealed the first generation of its Watch product. The company had hoped that their latest innovation, the smartwatch, was going to be just as popular and life changing as the first iPhone, but initial sales soon put a dampener on those early hopes and dreams.

But just why did the Apple Watch fail to capture the public’s imagination like its creators had hoped?

There were several reasons for the public’s lukewarm reaction to the first-generation product – it lacked its own “brain”, so relied on a connected iPhone for processing power, and its functionality was extremely limited. Competing products from the likes of Samsung were quick to follow, but the public still was not convinced: some even questioned whether the idea of “wearable” technology would ever take off at all.
Improving the Technology

Despite almost seven years having passed since the launch of the original Apple Watch, the technology is still considered to be in its infancy by many. Sure, the latest models have drastically improved user interfaces, far more capable assistants, and even their own app stores providing health management, access to gaming and betting via the best website for sports betting in the US, mobile payments, and many more useful and innovative functions.

For all of these improvements, however, there are still many problems left to be solved before smartwatches and other wearable devices are likely to go truly mainstream. Advances in flexible screen technology are finally enabling manufacturers to create better-looking and more comfortable devices, whilst improvements in battery, sensor, and connectivity technologies have all contributed towards making the latest smartwatches far more desirable than their first-generation counterparts.

What is Holding Back the Smartwatch Today?

Industry analysts believe that if the remaining issues with smartwatch technology can be solved, the question of whether these devices could end up replacing our smartphones could once again be back on the agenda – despite being dismissed several years ago.

The first major issue with current generation smartwatches taking over the functionality of a modern smartphone is their user interface. This is a difficult problem to solve, especially as the usable area of a smartwatch is inherently smaller than that available with a smartphone. Typing out a text message on a smartwatch screen is never going to be a enticing proposition; voice and gesture control will need to be improved to near-perfection if these devices are ever truly going to replace the smartphone, and what if you do not want the people around you to know the contents of your message? Again, this is a difficult issue to resolve, and it will be interesting to see what solutions the major manufacturers of these products come up with

Next, current generation products are generally constrained to niche functionality because of the lack of technical capability inside the device, along with a lack of connectivity to other devices. A companion smartphone is currently still an essential requirement for using almost all wearable devices, and the limitations on the size of such a device mean that the only way to solve this issue is by shrinking the components inside of them. This issue is easier to solve, as components have continued to shrink every year for decades now. Eventually, we are almost certain to reach a point where the entirety of the components in a smartphone can be packed into a watch form factor.

How the Smartwatch Could Become the Dominant Device

Current generation smartwatches offer relatively few functions for a high price, suffer from disappointing battery life, and require a companion “parent” device to function at full capacity. If the next-generation smartwatches can solve these problems whilst also providing a friendlier user interface and enhanced connectivity, there is a significant percentage of the public who may be willing to trade in their smartphone for a simpler, less obtrusive device such as a smartwatch at some time in the future.

Samsung and Motorola have demonstrated concept devices at recent consumer electronic shows which use flexible screen technology to create a futuristic “snap bracelet” type device that has a larger screen area and can be removed from the wrist and used as a rectangular smartphone-like device for privacy when necessary. These devices are only concepts now but represent a promising option for progressing wearable smart technology in the future.

A competing breakthrough technology sounds like science fiction but may be closer than you think: holograms. Using light to project virtual smart screens onto another surface would remove the space constraints of a typical smartwatch display but being able to interact with this augmented reality interface is what truly excites analysts about this technology at the moment. There are still many questions to be answered as to how all of this could be integrated into a useful and affordable device but have no doubt about it: technology companies are spending billions working on these problems.

For all our current skepticism, a future where many of us ditch our smartphones and opt for only a smartwatch instead, could be much closer than you think.