Thursday, September 5, 2013

An elegant smartwatch

I'm really disappointed by the design of new smartwatches. I think they are techy, square and way too masculine. That's probably due to the target group, the presumed demographic of people who are expected to be interested in a smartwatch. But what about the other 50% of the population?

Originally I was trying to guess what a possible iWatch would look like but during the sketches I realised I'd like to make something beautiful, which turned out to be more feminine. I was inspired by a Calvin Klein watch I bought for my wife a few years ago. She still gets lots of positive comments about her watch. Most people are surprised that when they see it's a watch and not a piece of jewelery. I'd like to have the same effect with a smartwatch - that people would be suprised it's a smartwatch, and not 'just' a pretty watch. So I did some quick googling and found some lovely 'Glam' watches from CK which I took as a starting point.

Halfway through this project, Samsung released their Gear smartwatch, which just seemed to emphasise all that I didn't like about the current smartwatches. It seems like they're trying to create a mini-mobile on your wrist, which I don't think is the point. Your real mobile isn't that far away. If you have the time to read facebook, you have the time to pull out your mobile.

The real needs I see (and experience myself) are few and simple: A quick way to see what time it is, and a quick way to answer a call. That's it. For everything else your mobile is within reach. I've read that fitness apps are an 'obvious' use for a smartwatch, but I don't agree. I have runkeeper which speaks to me as I exercise. I find reading (or interacting) with an app while exercising almost impossible.

In my design here I've split the battery into two parts. The largest battery (or batteries) is in the strap, and the watch face itself has the smaller battery, which I've called a 'piggy back battery'. When the watch face is connected to the strap, the face charges up. This means the watch should last longer than if there was only one battery in the watch face. The screen is E-ink to minimize power useage, and colour is probably not all that necessary to show the time and who's calling. I'm trying to keep this as minimal as possible. Keep it simple. "Just enough" is more.

The watch face has bluetooth which connects to the phone. The strap has a vibrator inside which alerts the user to an incoming call. Maybe SMSs but I'm not really sure about that. A missed SMS isn't a big deal - you'll read it the next time you check your phone. So the watch face tells the strap to vibrate. The user then takes the watch face off the strap (which is held on by magical magnets which keep the face on all day but are just weak enough to make it easy enough to pull off) when the watch face is disconnected, the strap can't vibrate.Which doesn't really matter because you're talking on the phone at that time. One of the advantages of holding something up to your ear is that it gives a clear signal to your surroundings that you are speaking to someone else.

The screen is a touchscreen for selecting options. (Which wouldn't be many - Answer call, reject call, end call, and maybe settings although the settings could be in your phones' app) Another interesting interface I thought of would be if the side of the ring was also touch-sensitive, so you could use it to scroll through items on the display. Since the display is so small your finger would obscure a large part of it, so it would be better to have your fingers off-screen. However, this is just for answering calls so perhaps one hardware button would also perform adequately.

The back has the speaker in the middle and two microphones at either end, so that it doesn't really matter which way up it is when you hold it to your ear. It also has connectors for power and information for the strap. The whole thing charges through standard micro USB. The strap is made of a slighly bendy rubber, so you'd probably be able to get it on by squeezing your hand through the hole, but I'll admit that I haven't made any way to adjusting the size, which isn't very good.

Essentially this is just a bluetooth earphone in a different form - one that's stuck to your wrist on a special holder rather than hanging permanently on your ear. It just looks a bit nicer. I think so anyway.

Here's a video too.

So, is this a great idea or a stupid idea?

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