Smartwatches are popular, but not too popular. Not many people wear a smartwatch. Smartwatches as of now still provide limited “value” to owners. Many people use them for a time and then just put them away.
When Apple launched its first Apple Watch most “tech experts” predicted that smartwatches would become as ubiquitous as smartphones. And they expected that to happen very quickly.
Two and a half years have passed since the launch of the Apple Watch 1 in April 2015. The Apple Watch has been a moderate success. It has sold 15 million units in the last twelve months (figure estimated by industry consultants). And it is the world’s best selling smartwatch, by far. But these numbers are no match for the iPhone. The iPhone has sold around 225 million units in the same period. Conclusion: smartwatches have yet to go mainstream. They’re still a niche product.
Since 2015, health / fitness / sports tracking functionalities have been the main reason to buy a smartwatch. While useful, those features have not been enough to make smartwatches an unmissable product. In Autumn 2017 Apple has introduced cellular connectivity in the Apple Watch 3. Again that is a nice feature, but not the killer app that smartwatches need to finally take off.
So will there ever be a killer app for smartwatches?
AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the name of the game
Artificial intelligence is going to change our lives. It will change the way we interact with machines, and also how machines interact with us. One of the areas where AI will be more visible to consumers is voice assistants. Amazon (Alexa), Apple (Siri), Alphabet (Google Assistant), Microsoft (Cortana) and even Samsung (Bixby) have invested billions of dollars into their voice assistants. And they are already functional and to a certain extent useful. But they are not yet anywhere close to where they are expected to be in a few years.
What will voice assistants mean for smartwatches?
Voice assistants and smartwatches: an unbeatable combination
Once voice assistants reach its expected potential, they will understand the way we normally talk. They will be able to interact with all apps and features in our phones, and also in our smartwatches! This will open a whole new world of possibilities for smartwatches:
- Possibility to write, reply, listen to any text in any messaging / email app without having to use specific voice commands as it happens now.
- Possibility to easily set up, modify, share calendar appointments.
- Possibility to create, edit, delete reminders.
- Possibility to shop on the watch, without having to use our phone.
- Possibility to connect to and interact with your AI enabled home.
- And much, much more.
A smartwatch has two key advantages over a phone: you always have it on and you don’t need to take it out of your pocket to use it. On the other hand the watch has a very significant limitation: its size, specifically the screen size.
Voice assistants, as they are expected to be in a few years, eliminate this size limitation. Almost entirely. Only stuff like reading, web surfing, video watching and photography will continue to be more comfortable to do on a phone.
And when this happens, we will all be wearing a smartwatch.