Wearables: living with a smart watch

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13 January 2015
Tom Scales
As a research analyst in technology, and a serious geek, I like to play with new technology. I resisted the urge to buy a smart watch for a long time, but finally succumbed. The first several generations of watch were unusable. The next generations were huge and clunky. What finally made me jump was that, while still huge and clunky, the latest watches are round! Perhaps not the best justification, but any geek would understand that rationalization is the key to virtually every technology purchase. I chose the LG G Watch R. While not an exciting name, the R is the round one and it is actually a decent looking watch. That was a long lead-in to the point of this post -- what's it like to replace your watch with a smart watch? Or perhaps more accurately, what's it like to have some of your tech on your arm, since few people really wear watches any more? The results? Mixed, which likely isn't a surprise. Pros:
  • There are some great apps for the watch.
  • I use Google Maps on the watch which is much safer when I am in a rental car than trying to balance my cell phone. It is limited, but works.
  • I receive emails, tweets and Facebook posts on the watch. Again, limited, but it has kept me from pulling my phone out for what turns out to be something that can wait.
  • I just installed a new app called Hold the Wheel. This app automatically responds to a text or call while I'm driving with an SMS that, well, I'm driving.
  • I like that I can change watch faces easily too. I mostly use the analog faces -- so it still looks like a watch. I have a nice one for when I'm home and a different one, that shows two time zones, when I travel. Sometimes I'm in a mood and in becomes a Mickey Mouse watch. OK, my daughter likes the Hello Kitty watch face too.
  • For me, though, the defining application is one that most people will never install -- an app called tinyCam monitor. You see I have lots of small children -- four year old twins and three year old twins. They're full of energy and still need lots of supervision. So we installed inexpensive cameras in their rooms, the playroom and by the doors. The tinyCam app lets me watch the cameras on the watch. Very, very Dick Tracy. For me, I feel like the kids are safer, as I can keep better tabs on them. Yes, it is an app that I won't need soon, but by then I hope that the next defining app will show up for me.
Cons:
  • Not as many as I would have expected.
  • It is large and a little clunky, but surprisingly not very heavy. It makes up for this a bit by actually looking like a watch.
  • You also have to charge it every day, but it docks easily, so you just put it on the charger at bed time. Eventually I expect wireless charging, like my phone and tablet have.
  • I also feel like it could just do more. I'll keep exploring as new apps come out.
  • Lastly, the big challenge, is that it is expensive. $300 expensive. Yes, I can rationalize well to have bought it.
So the moral of the story? Don't look at watches, look at applications. If you can find that one or two defining apps that make the purchase a positive experience, then jump on board. If not, wait. However, for some that wait might be forever. What does this have to do with insurance? Lots has been written, including by Celent, about the use of wearables in insurance. It has a place in the future and we can already see benefits. But in the end it all comes down to the consumer actually wearing it.

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