11 March 2015
Wearable Tech - Old Skool stylie
By Stephen A Chadwick
30 years ago to the day, I excitedly unboxed my Casio Databank calculator watch. It was my twelfth birthday and I'd been selling it hard to my parents for months. Surely they could see it was going to transform our lives? The benefits of calculating "on the move" were limitless - I could tally up the shopping as my Mum placed groceries in the trolley, I could amuse friends by writing BOOBS in digits, and well, that was the extent of it really.
The novelty soon waned of course. I'd wildly overestimated the amount of calculations I was likely to be executing. The screen got cracked during a footie match one school lunchbreak; enquiries were made at a local jewellers but glass replacement cost more than a new unit. It sat in a drawer in the hallway for a few years and then mysteriously vanished around the time my Mum got sucked into a Boot Fair cult.
To this day that remains my only foray into the "wearable tech" market and I've been (justifiably, I think) sceptical of the whole "scene" ever since. I mean, just how useful or practical is it reading emails on a watch? To what depths will I have sunk when squinting at my wrist to read an email is preferable to the effort involved in getting my phone out of my pocket? I just can't help feeling that the smartwatch is Apple's answer to Microsoft's Internet Explorer: You know it exists, you don't want it, you've never expressed any interest in owning it, yet there it is. Again. Right in your face.
So the revelation that the Apple Watch will only last 3 hours if used for calls is further reinforcement that this is a product I don't need just yet. And presumably that 3 hours is with a spanking new battery. Don't misunderstand me, I like Apple products, I like them a lot. I own or have owned Macs, iPods and iPhones and honestly they've never disappointed, but I'm also aware that if Apple started selling plastic turds tomorrow with their logo on, there are people out there that would be queuing through the night to get hold of one on release day. Hats off to Apple, that they can generate this kind of religious fervour amongst their disciples is testament to just how strong their brand is.
But I can't help thinking, (and I'm not just talking about Apple here) that the smartwatch is something of a white elephant. I can see the appeal, I really can. Going for a run and having bluetooth sounds playing with no cables flapping about, monitoring heart rate, mail notification - fantastic. But realistically, until battery cell technology means a smartwatch needs just a monthly charge, does it really have the potential to change the way we use mobile telecommunications?
Through the 90's and 00's we watched phones get progressively smaller - from something the size of a house brick to mobile devices smaller than a cigarette packet - then came the smartphone and the screen real estate trend reversed, we wanted bigger and bigger phones with higher definition, tactile screens... Apple claim that their watch is "the most personal device we have ever created" which is fair enough, it is strapped to you after all. I simply can't see people clamouring to interface with something the size of a postage stamp.
Prices for the Apple watch vary, from £299 for the basic model up to £13,500 for a top of the range edition. A Casio Databank can be yours for less than a tenner on ebay and what's more, battery life is infinite, I can attest to that - the alarm on my Databank went off daily at 3.30pm for what seemed liked years, I guarantee it's still going off somewhere to this day.