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Home News Failure to launch: a few reasons why smartwatches haven’t caught on

Failure to launch: a few reasons why smartwatches haven’t caught on

LG G Watch Sony Smartwatch 3 Moto 360 LG G Watch R Android Wear-6

My first encounter with a smartwatch was about 25 years ago. It was 1990 and I was in a crowded movie theater watching the movie Dick Tracy with my family. Set in the 1930s, the film’s title character, portrayed by Warren Beatty, was a no-nonsense detective who fought crime while sporting a high-tech wristwatch equipped with a two-way radio. As an impressionable kid with a budding love for technology, it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.

Fast-forward to the present, where Hollywood’s movie magic is pretty much a reality. Smartwatches are now widely available to consumers, but despite my fascination with futuristic timepieces as a child, I’ve yet to purchase one. And I’m definitely not alone. Recently, smartwatch maker Pebble announced that it had sold over 1 million units, which is definitely an impressive feat, however this milestone is over the course of two years. When you compare this figure to the millions of smartphones sold each month, it’s almost laughable. 

My first encounter with a smartwatch was about 25 years ago. It was 1990 and I was in a crowded movie theater watching the movie Dick Tracy with my family.

Arguably the most recognizable smartwatch producer on the planet, Pebble’s lackluster start hasn’t stopped other companies from jumping on the wearable bandwagon. Tech superpowers like Samsung, LG, Sony and Motorola have been cranking out smartwatches faster than they can sell them. So why aren’t consumers biting? Here’s my take.

Smartwatches Aren’t Really a Standalone Product

samsung galaxy s5 aa gear fit neo smartwatches

Unlike Dick Tracy’s telephone-esque timepiece, the majority of smartwatches are not capable of placing voice calls on their own. In fact, most of them need to be tethered to an Internet-connected smartphone in order to operate at full capacity. This may not be a complete deal breaker for everyone, however some people aren’t too keen on this setup.

Add in the fact that most smartwatches are currently priced from $200 to $300, and this watered down extension of a smartphone experience really starts to become a tough sell.

I mean think about it. Have we as people really gotten so lazy that our smartphones need a butler? In a sense that’s what modern smartwatches are. Fans of these luxury items will argue otherwise and say they’re about convenience. “I get so many emails and text messages!” But is pulling your phone out of your pocket really that much of a chore?

Have we as people really gotten so lazy that our smartphones need a butler?

This is my biggest gripe about smartwatches as a whole. They don’t really bring much to the table. Yes, they’re cool in theory and maybe even in demonstration, but what can you really do with one that can’t be done better with a smartphone? People most likely recognize this and simply want more.

Not that fashionable

Sony Smartwatch 3-13

Another thing stifling the smartwatch’s growth is its appearance. If you’re looking for an attractive intelligent timepiece your choices are very limited. Most of these devices are very masculine in appearance, so if you’re a lady seeking something softer, things are even worse. Is it just me or do most smartwatches look like exercise gear? I’d say the Moto 360, LG G Watch R and Pebble Steel are the best looking hardware from the lot, but they still lack the crossover appeal that a traditional watch has to offer.

A Few Ideas That Might Help


Smartwatches aren’t necessarily on the brink of extinction, but they’ll need to evolve in order to endure the years ahead. One of the changes I’d like to see going forward are more self-sufficient devices that don’t require a smartphone for complete use. Yes, there are already products on the market like the Samsung Gear S, but I’m talking about devices with advanced network capabilities (mainly LTE) and possibly even the ability to place voice calls via a Bluetooth headset. While this sounds a bit silly, it may be a viable option for people who like to travel light.

Additionally, the smartwatch market needs watches that look more like… watches. The LG G Watch R is my personal favorite design so far, but some people may prefer something with more of a sleek build.

Smartwatches aren’t necessarily on the brink of extinction, but they’ll need to evolve in order to endure the years ahead.

Another challenge holding smartwatches back is how much they cost. Most devices are priced on a par with high-end on-contract smartphones, but they only offer a fraction of the functionality. The majority of casual consumers are just starting to wrap their heads around the concept of paying a few hundred bucks for a powerful smartphone or tablet. If these wearables are to catch on with the masses, manufacturers will need to find a sweet spot. I’d say that $100 to $150 is a reasonable price range. Last year, Pebble announced permanent price cuts for its product line, making its entry-level watch only $100. Hopefully some of the Kickstarter-created company’s competitors will soon follow suit.

Another possible springboard for smartwaches would be a device made by Google. The company already has a history of producing its own flagship hardware, so a Nexus watch would be an ideal showpiece to market Android Wear’s capabilities. While some people are gearing up for Apple’s first foray into the world of smartwatches, a timepiece directly from Mountain View almost seems imminent.

Final Thoughts


Modern smartwatches are still in their early days. Software platforms like Android Wear, Pebble OS and Tizen will only get better with time, but early adopters are going to encounter growing pains along the way. This may not discourage hardcore tech fans seeking the next big thing, however average consumers will definitely be a bit more hesitant to part with their hard-earned cash.

In their present form, smartwatches are still unpolished, unproven and ultimately unnecessary. Toss in the fact that most devices are poorly marketed and it becomes pretty clear why they’re not flying off the shelves. And until hardware smartwatch producers can come up with a clear-cut reason why these devices are actually needed, 1 million units sold every two years might be a slow death knell ringing loud and clearly.

What do you think, consider smartwatches a useful luxury at this point, or a niche item not worthy of your hard-earned dollars? Share your thoughts in the comments.




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Sennheiser GSP 670 headset review: premium price, subpar performance

The search for a new headset can really get frustrating. Sure, there are a million options on Amazon for under $50, but when you want something premium, where do you start? If you’re looking for the best possible audio quality, you start with the Sennheiser GSP 670 and hope you can find it on sale because these things don’t come cheap.The GSP 670 is a premium headset with sound quality and a price tag to match. Launching at $350, you’re paying for the Sennheiser name and quality. We’ve tested multiple Sennheiser headsets throughout the years and have almost always come away impressed. That’s the same story here.The first thing you may notice about this headset is just how big it is. It looks big before you pick it up and it feels big once you put it on. Coming in at just shy of 400g, it has the weight to make those extremely long gaming sessions taxing, but luckily Sennheiser included one of the best headbands I’ve seen in a headset yet. It’s big and comfortable without looking too ridiculous.The earcups are equally nice with large plus fabric cups that will keep your ears away from the driver covers. If you prefer leatherette cups you’ll want to find another option, but I did find these to be one of the most comfortable headsets to just sit and listen to music on. The clamping force is just right (although uneven; more on that later) and the earcups provide a wonderful seal to keep the noise of the world away from your ears.One the outside of the headset, there’s a small tactile wheel to adjust chat volume if you’re using a gaming console, a large volume knob, and a multifunction button that will provide audio prompts for battery level and put you into pairing mode when you hold it down. The only thing we’re missing here is a physical switch to move between Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connection standards, and we’ll tell you why that matters in a bit.The microphone is on the left side of the headset and provides a nice tactile click when you flip it all the way up. This is how you mute your microphone and comes in handy when you need to have a quick conversation and get back to whatever you were doing before.I wish I could report that the microphone provided better audio quality but I was pretty disappointed. It’s been a struggle to find a wireless headset that really gives great performance in this area (I’m guessing there’s a bandwidth issue) and the Sennheisers fall disappointingly short. I think they sound much the same as every other headset released in the last decade, which isn’t saying a lot.Both Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connection standards are here. Plugging the USB dongle into my computer, the headset paired almost instantly and opened up a world of opportunity to tune through the Sennheiser app. There are options to tune your EQ, how the microphone sounds, and even provide a noise gate in case you have a noisy background. I didn’t find much difference in how the microphone sounded using these options so hopefully, they continue to be tuned in future updates.The sound that comes through these headphones is a completely different story. This has been one of the best audio experiences I’ve had in my time reviewing tech. I’d put it up there with the Sony WH-1000xm3 in terms of enjoyment. Where Sony offers amazing noise cancelation, the Sennheiser GSP 670 takes the crown in terms of audio quality.I found music pleasingly bass-y without feeling like I’m slogging through the mud just to listen. Mids are very clear while highs are crisp without being piercing.I just wish I enjoyed wearing these more. I can’t overstate how heavy these things are. At just under 400g, they’re one of the heavier headsets I’ve tested and it can be exhausting during long sessions. With 16 hours of battery life, those sessions can last all night, but you’ll need breaks.Additionally, I don’t like wearing these because of how the cups sit on my head. While the cups themselves are large enough that my ear doesn’t touch anything, the clamping is uneven and annoying. You can use the sliders in the headband to adjust your clamp, but I always end up with more pressure on the bottom of the cups than at the top.Frankly, these don’t look great and certainly don’t look like something I’d pay over $300 for. They’re big and bulky with muted colors and an … aggressive? design. I’m not entirely sure what to call this design language but there are definitely better-looking options on the market. This won’t matter to some, but for those who do care, it’s a bit of a killer and makes the cost harder to justify.ConclusionThere are always trade-offs when you’re using a wireless headset. Sennheiser smartly did not skimp on the audio quality and if you’re looking for a wireless headset that sounds great, this is definitely where you want to start. I put it at the top of the list in that respect.But, where it falls apart is pretty much everywhere else. Tradeoffs become pretty obvious when you use these for more than a few hours.Yep, they’re built solidly and the plastic design means they’ll hold up to some abuse. But, these look cheaper than competing options like the Astro A50s and Arctis Pro Wireless. Plus, as I’ve said a few times, they’re heavy.It’s awesome that they have both 2.4ghz and Bluetooth standards. But there’s no way to manually switch between them and the second that your computer plays audio via the USB dongle, the Bluetooth cuts out completely. If you’re using these to take a phone call or listen to music on your phone and you accidentally click on a YouTube link on your computer, say goodbye to your audio. This would be an easy fix with a manual switch and we hope to see that in a future revision.Best over-ear headphones (spring 2020)I can’t state enough how crappy the audio from the mic is. Maybe I’m spoiled by streamers who invest hundreds and hundreds of dollars into their audio equipment, but this sounds like every headset I’ve heard the last decade of gaming and that’s pretty disappointing.If your voice quality matters to you at all, I’d suggest getting a standalone mic. But you have to ask yourself if you’re grabbing something like a Blue Yeti, is there a justification for the GSP 670 when you can buy a wireless headset for far cheaper?I know it probably looks like I hate the Sennheiser GSP 670 but I don’t. In true dad fashion, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. While they’re best in class in terms of audio quality, the things they miss on are a killer and make them harder to recommend over other competitors.After a bit of searching, I’ve found the Sennheiser GSP 670 around $300 and sometimes cheaper on sale. I think if you can find these cheaper than that, go for it. Your ears will thank you. At full price, they’re a tough sell.Buy the Sennheiser GSP 670 at Amazon