‘Wearables’ is the rather unsexy designation assigned to fitness bands, smartwatches, and forthcoming smart clothes. On Monday, Apple hopes to turn on the sex appeal when it is expected to officially launch long-awaited Apple Watch. But, are you ready to pay for Facebook on your wrist?
At least one research firm believes many us — well, a lot of us — are ready. According to Strategy Analytics, Apple will ship over 15 million Apple Watch units this year, instantly catapulting it to the lead in smart watches by gobbling up roughly 55 percent of the market. With prices expected to start at $349, that's over $5 billion in sales in just 10 months.
If you're on the fence as to whether to start saving up for the Apple Watch, here's a breakdown of its possible benefits and drawbacks:
Fitness and health:
At least the sports model is reported to include a blood flow monitor, which gauges your heart rate. Countless other models also have this feature, although most focus on fitness with limited smart phone connections. Putting both smartphone apps and fitness features that don't require a chest strap into a slick watch is a big attraction. Go for a run in the park, and the Watch will mark your distance (via GPS on the iPhone), time, and heart rate range.
For younger owners, who may be working on their quarter mile times, and older users, who may be more focused on monitoring their pulse throughout the day, this is an absolutely necessary feature. The sensors aren't perfect, but they are good enough for most consumer applications.
Surreptitious communication is the hallmark of texting, which explains its appeal over the ancient communications method known as the voice phone call. By texting, you can sneak in messages to your posse even while you're standing in your boss' office. The Watch will make this all even more subtle. Just glance down at your wrist, give it a tap, and you've responded to that request to pick up sushi on the way home.
The Watch includes support for Apple Pay, so all the wearer has to do is put the device near a terminal to feed the cash register. No digging for bills in your pocket or looking for a credit card to swipe. (On the other hand, stolen credit card data is already circulating on Apple Pay.)
It's just easier to tap or swipe on your wrist to change tracks than it is to rummage through a purse or bag to find your phone just to change your tunes.
Ultra geek factor:
There will be some consummately geeky new apps for the Apple Watch. Examples include a Tesla app for monitoring your car's charge, and Retale, a location-based shopping app that will flash sales alerts.
It's darn expensive:
If you're used to paying Rolex prices, the $349 price tag may not seem severe. On the other hand, if you can afford a Rolex, you're probably going to keep the stainless steel chronograph and eschew the Apple Watch.
It's not Dick Tracy's watch:
It's not a phone. So without your iPhone, the Watch is just, well, a watch. One big advantage of models that also work independently as a phone, such as the Samsung Gear S, is that if you walk out without your phone or you just don't want to have a bulky smartwatch jammed in your shorts' pocket, you can still make calls and send messages from your wrist.
Short battery life:
It's like going back to the days when you had to wind your watch all the time. The Apple Watch, like much of the competition, will only last a day before it needs a recharge. It's the main complaint most smartwatch owners — including me — have against the whole category of devices.
The Watch may not be waterproof, although Tim Cook apparently wears his in the shower. Ever since "It keeps a licking and keeps on ticking," it's been taken for granted that anything on your wrist should be waterproof. If it's not, it's a deal breaker.
It's version 1.0:
The techie rule, no matter the product or application, is never, ever buy version 1.0 of anything. There are bound to be hiccups, glitches, and bugs. You don't want to be the guinea pig.
On the other hand, being the first with an Apple Watch on your wrist will no doubt be a great conversation starter.
Do you want to be quantified?
This is the most important question of all. In era where everything from phones to cars to TVs are monitoring and tracking you, do you really want another device monitoring your heart rate, saving how many steps you take, and then judgmentally sharing it with other applications (perhaps even advertisers)? In other words, before you buy you should ask yourself ‘do you really want to assign a number to everything in your life?’
John R. Quain is a personal tech columnist for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @jqontech or find more tech coverage at J-Q.com.