Keeping the Watch Simple?

I can’t help it; I’m a tech guy and I like my toys. That is particularly the case with wearables, and I’m always game to try new toys hoping to find “the one” that meets all of my needs. That has included various trackers and watches, as well as heart rate straps and rings over the years. And yet, when the dust settles, I always go back to my “sort of” smart connected sports watch. There’s no touch screen, and no real third-party apps (no Uber or a flight pass for me). And yet… it’s perfect.

Firstly, yes, it covers the sports and exercise that I do, which is, after all, a common denominator for wearables. If it’s not tracking my runs, walks and bike rides, then what’s the point? It also tracks, thanks to a third-party “layer”, my windsurfing which is top of my list for any device that will stay on my wrist. Indeed, I’m part of a cadre of windsurfing nuts who always want to compare how far we went and – of course – our top speed.

But beyond that incredibly-small niche use, my somewhat smart watch covers the most important things: it is eye candy (rather chunky eye candy all the same) that advertises that I consider myself to be sporty, ready to break into a run at any moment, and – most importantly – it tells me the time. Yes, among all of the many things this clever little watch can do, telling the time and sending me alerts when I get messages on my phone are the “killer apps” for me.

Perhaps I struggle with limited imagination of what metrics I could be tracking with my watch, which certainly has plenty of additional technology packed inside its tiny case, but the real question is, “what am I supposed to do with that information?”. Take, for example, one of the most basic features: sleep tracking. I get a score each day telling me how well I slept, but so what? I usually have a pretty fair idea of how well I slept, and if I spent half the night tossing and turning. I really don’t need to put a number on it, do I? I’m sure some people do, and then avidly analyze what they could do to improve that score. But that’s not for me or, I suspect, for most people (frankly, that stress would increase my sleeplessness).

With that in mind, I took a look at our wearables survey* to highlight features that are of least interest to consumers looking to buy a smartwatch. And sure enough, sleep tracking is the fourth least interesting feature to these buyers. It’s in good company: many of the latest and greatest features, such as EKG, fall detection and stress level tracking also score “well” in the least important features (in fairness, by far the least popular option is the ability to play games on your watch).

That’s a problem for the smartwatch companies as they look to broaden the appeal of their devices by focusing on deeper health and wellness features. While the techies will rave about the additional features, the average consumer will just want to know what time it is… and when the battery will run out.


* Connected Intelligence Wearables Ownership survey: 5025 respondents; Fielded August 2021