Should I Get a Smartwatch? The Pros and Cons to Decide
Smartwatches are among the more recent developments in the tech world. Many thought they would go the way of Google Glass when they were first released. But, rather than fading from popularity, Smartwatches only seem to get more popular with time.
But, many people still aren’t convinced. After all, we’re all already spending enough time attached to our screens, right? What additional benefit could a smartwatch possible offer over a smartphone? When you’re already carrying a powerful computer in your pocket, wearing another on your wrist loses some appeal.
Or does it?
That’s what this article is all about. We’ll talk about the advantages of a smartwatch. We’ll also discuss some reasons you may not want or need one. Finally, we’ll discuss the target audience of smartwatches.
Last of all, we’ll discuss our final thoughts on when smartwatches are a savvy investment, and when they’re more of a gizmo than useful.
Reasons To Get A Smartwatch
Let’s start with the good. There are more reasons to get a smartwatch than not. Let’s explore some of those benefits.
You’re out with friends. Everyone has their phones piled in the center of the table. First to look at their phone loses. It’s a great way to encourage face to face socializing. No one feels left out, no one misses out on the conversation absorbed in the latest memes. No more notification of the President’s latest tweets.
But, you’re waiting for an important message from your boss. Or your mom. Or your partner. You know you can only last so long before you need to reach for your phone, just in case.
Wearing a smartwatch may be cheating, but it works. Your phone will automatically send you notifications of the messages and calls you receive on your phone. Instead of picking up your phone, and possibly the tab, you just glance at your wrist.
If it’s important, you know right away. If it’s nothing, you can continue without a single pause in the conversation.
Receiving notifications without having to pull out your phone is one of the main benefits of a smartwatch. It’s also useful when you’re expecting an important call at work. Leave your phone on silent so it won’t distract you. As long as you can see your watch, you’ll never miss the important stuff.
Other notifications are equally helpful. Calendar reminders, office meetings, date nights, and other important reminders also display on smartwatch faces. If you’re someone who is running around all day, constantly checking a planner or electronic calendar to stay on track, this service is invaluable.
Knowing you’ll be able to catch important notifications when they happen also adds to your peace of mind.
You may find yourself spending less time on your phone simply because the fear that you’ll miss something important is less.
Many smartwatches also include good health and wellness trackers. This is more than simply recording your daily steps, although that’s part of it. You can also track what distance you jogged. If you like to swim, it’ll record the distance covered there too.
Some smartwatches, like the Apple Smartwatch, have advanced tracking tools like an ECG (electrocardiogram heart monitor). If you, or your doctor, are concerned about heart disease, your watch can provide the 24-7 data your doctor needs to give you condition-appropriate care.
While most smartwatches need to be charged more often than fitness and health trackers, they still provide a wealth of information.
Plus, having the information at the tip of your fingers, or in this case, strapped to your wrist, makes it easier to meet fitness and health goals.
With a little extra effort, your smartwatch can also help with your diet. Track your calorie intake with every meal. Receive calorie estimates for your exercise. Both in combination makes programs like Weight Watchers even easier.
While a smartwatch can’t calculate your macronutrients or help keep you in ketosis, it’ll still provide useful dieting information.
For those of us who rely on caffeine to get through the day, your smartwatch tracks that too. The amount of caffeine in your system can affect your stress levels, your heart rate, and how jittery you are. Knowing how much is in your system is a useful tool for maximizing your productivity without the afternoon crash.
Stress is another important factor your smartwatch will monitor. They use a combination of measures, like your heart rate and blood pressure, to measure stress. Since you have a physiological response to mental state, these trackers are surprisingly accurate.
Best of all, if you’re used to chronic stress, it can help you identify when you are stressed. It may even know you’re stressed before you do.
That’s a useful tool if you’re trying to increase your health through stress reduction. It can even help fight insomnia and other chronic-stress symptoms since you’ll have the opportunity to intervene in your stress before it causes problems.
Even if all you can do is take five deep breaths before getting on with your day, you’ll notice your mood improving. With that improvement come better health outcomes, better sleep, and greater enjoyment of your free time and hobbies.
It may seem like your phone already has you covered for travel. But, that’s before you’ve had a smartwatch.
The GPS in a smartwatch works similarly to your phone. It can pull up a map, guide you to nearby locations, or search out a specific destination. The biggest advantage is that you only have to glance at your wrist instead of pulling out your phone.
Keeping your eyes up, on the street or the sidewalk has a surprising effect on your confidence in an unfamiliar area. If you have Bluetooth headphones, you can even have the watch pipe directions into your ear, just like a phone.
But, without having to check your phone, you’ll see more of your surroundings. You’ll be more inclined to explore knowing that your watch can quickly help if you get lost.
It’s also a handy way to avoid looking like a tourist. Anyone can spot a non-local frantically checking their phone for directions to a more familiar location. Getting directions on your watch is simpler, quieter, and less of a neon sign that you’re not from around here.
Admittedly this benefit is smaller than some of the other benefits we’ve listed. Smartwatches mostly use the same navigation systems as similar smartphones. An apple watch will produce directions with Siri’s search and map function, just like an iPhone. Android and Galaxy smartwatches both use android’s system and google maps, so it’s a similar feature.
This function is going to be most helpful for jet setters. People who find themselves in new and different locales regularly.
Still, it’s a little like having a personal guide on your wrist. Knowing you won’t get lost can only be beneficial.
This seems a little counter-intuitive at first glance. After all, Smartphones are purpose-built for making and accepting calls, right?
Well, to a point, yes. But a flip phone is likely just as effective at making and receiving calls as a smartphone. Most of us have upgraded, but not because the phone call is radically altered thanks to an internet connection and superior processing power.
The real advantage here is that your smartwatch lets you take, and screen, calls without having to pull out your smartphone.
In order to take advantage of this feature, you’ll need one other piece of equipment, a wireless headset. But, with the appropriate equipment, it’s a much more convenient experience.
It’s also good for streamlining your work. Much like the notifications making it easier to concentrate and only pause when it’s important, truly hands-free calling makes it easier to multi-task.
Call screening is also a cinch. If you don’t want to take a particular call, send it straight to voicemail. No need to let it ring through, turn on do not disturb, or take more than a moment to clear the call.
Some watches will also let you avoid the headphones entirely. You’ll talk directly into the smartwatch and hear responses the same way. We didn’t find this feature as useful as directing calls to a headset since one hand is out of commission every time you need to respond, but it’s still handy for folks who like to walk away from their phone.
Yes, you can run music through your smartwatch. Or, rather, you can run music through your smartphone, and use your smartwatch as a controller.
If you have named playlists, your smartwatch/smartphone assistant will let you cue up playlists with a spoken command. The same goes for artists, albums, and individual songs. If you’re not in the mood for the current song, you can skip it without taking out your phone.
While this feature does require having a music app or library on your phone, and only works while you’re in range of your phone, it’s one more reason to keep your phone in your pocket and out of the way.
Many smartwatches can work with your usual music apps as well. Spotify and Pandora shouldn’t be a problem. You can even watch YouTube and music videos on your smartwatch, although you may not want to. The screen is rather small after all.
Look for apps that are enabled to work with your smart assistant, Siri, Google Assistant, and so on. Apps like Audible aren’t as convenient on a smartwatch, requiring you to press on-screen buttons. But, it’s still faster and easier than taking out your phone.
Plus, if you control your music on your smartwatch, you’re less likely to be distracted by the other apps and social media on your phone.
Saving Your Smartphone Battery
This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s more significant than you think. If you spend a lot of your time on your phone you probably also carry a charger, or a portable battery, with you. You worry when your battery dies, you wonder what’s happening that you’ve missed.
A good smartwatch means you won’t need those things.
Sure, your phone runs through some battery just being on. But that takes less energy than lighting a display, receiving a call, or playing a game.
You won’t miss notifications, but you’ll also be less inclined to lose minutes and hours scrolling through social media.
All that combines to mean you use your smartphone less, the battery lasts longer, and you still receive the most important benefits of your phone.
This is one of those benefits that can’t be well explained until you’ve experienced it. Take our word for it, reducing the stress of a dead phone battery makes a significant difference in your life and your ability to engage in day to day activities.
This category is like helping with travel, but your smartwatch can help you drive and navigate cities and towns near your home too. We won’t spend much time here since we’ve already covered something similar, but it’s worth mentioning.
This is a little benefit, but one worth thinking about. We all like having avenues for self-expression, and your watch can be part of it.
Almost all smartwatches come with a variety of clock faces and other customization opportunities. Like any good accessory, you can modify it to match your needs and personality more closely than the default settings.
Most watches have a few hundred options for you to choose from. Everything from themed backgrounds, favorite characters, and clock design can be altered. You can also alter your watch as often as you want. Don’t feel stuck in one theme or background, change them to suit your mood. They can even cheer you up a little.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Get a Smartwatch
If there weren’t reasons not to get a smartwatch, we’d all have one. While smartwatches can be incredible tools that add to your productivity and boost your mood and health, they can also be hindrances, annoying, and excessive.
No guide to smartwatches would be complete without talking about some of these downsides.
These factors may not influence you, or they may be deal-breakers. Since we can’t make that call for you, we’ll try to give you as much information as we can.
While your average smartwatch isn’t as expensive now as when they were first released, they’re still expensive devices.
You should expect to pay $200-$400 for a smartwatch. The price may vary depending on the sale, and sometimes you can get them bundled in with your phone or other devices. But you shouldn’t count on catching one of these deals.
The price itself shouldn’t be your primary consideration here though. Instead of thinking about the dollars by themselves, think about how much the smartwatch is worth to you.
A smartwatch isn’t like a Rolex. It’s a status symbol, but only to a very particular crowd of people. Some can be fashionable, but few smartwatches are designed for form rather than function.
So, think about the functional features. We’ve outlined the most important functions, though future smartphones may have more benefits than the ones we’ve talked about.
Are those features worth spending $200-$400 every few years? Do you expect that the benefits in time, health, and stress levels will be worth the initial investment? For many people, the answer is no.
Smartwatches essentially do the same things a smartphone does. They can monitor your health a little more accurately, and provide some additional conveniences. But your phone may well be enough.
A Fitness Tracker Offers Similar Benefits
This is related to price but slightly different. The main additional benefit smartwatches offer over your phone is more accurate health and fitness tracking.
But a specialized fitness tracker can do that too. Many fitness trackers are better at it. Fitness trackers have longer-lasting batteries and are better calibrated to capture exercise metrics in a useful and interpretable way.
They also serve that purpose without the added distraction of other features and notifications. If you’re looking for a purpose-built gadget, a fitness tracker is a better option.
You can usually get fitness trackers for less than a smartwatch. Even the ones that are similarly expensive have additional features and benefits to compensate for the price. Your fitness tracker is largely an effortless extension of your arm, one that monitors your activity so you can meet goals.
So, if the health benefits are the only appealing feature, we’d recommend a fitness tracker over a smartwatch.
You Have to Charge Them Every Day
This is the major inconvenience that comes with smartwatches. Like your phone, they have a finite battery. Since a smartwatch is managing more functions, including a larger screen, than a fitness tracker, their batteries don’t last nearly as long.
While many people think of their smartwatches as an extension of themselves. Or as a tool than enhances their ability to multitask and process multiple notifications and inputs at one time.
But you have to take that tool off at the end of every day and set it up to charge. While it may have stress benefits throughout the day, being without your smartwatch is a challenge of its own.
Plus, for anyone charging challenged, it’s one more thing to remember. And one more thing to stress over if you forget.
Distraction, Especially for Children
This is in contrast to the focus benefits you can get from a smartwatch. For a different kind of person, the same notifications that are less distracting than a phone will be more distracting.
A watch is easy to glance at. That means that the barrier to checking on social media, apps, appointments, and other distractions is much lower with a smartwatch than a smartphone. For people with full schedules and busy social media feeds, notifications can become constant.
Even on silent mode, most smartwatches buzz. That physical reminder of a notification, a potential distraction, is tempting.
As more and more of the family get access to smart technology, it’s important to ask where the lines should be drawn. Adults may be able to handle the distractions in a responsible and healthy way, but children may not. Even teenagers are more likely to give in to the distraction of a smartwatch.
Smartwatches also have a learning curve. You’ll likely have at least one embarrassing moment where you thought the smartwatch was silenced when it wasn’t. While that isn’t a big deal for adults in most contexts, it could be a serious problem for kids.
What if the smartwatch goes off during a test? Or has an alarm that doesn’t turn off on its own constantly going off in their locker or backpack.
These kinds of distractions are becoming more of a problem in schools, business meetings, and other settings where your focus should be in the moment, not on your tech.
It’s worth taking a moment, before you get a smartwatch for yourself or a family member, to evaluate how distracting your new gadget is likely to be. Is the distraction worth the benefit? Are you replacing the distraction of an addicting phone with a different addictive device?
Are You Who Smartwatches are Designed For?
Okay, we’ve talked about the pros and cons of smartwatches. Let’s talk about who they’re meant for. Like so much of our modern technology, smartwatches have a specific audience in mind. But that doesn’t mean those are the only people buying them.
Smartwatches are designed for business professionals. It makes sense since the idea of a smartwatch was almost certainly the brainchild of a business professional. They’re an answer to personal planners and other organizational tools that had been outdated by advancements in technology and increasing screen time.
They’re a great benefit to other busy people. For instance, a smartwatch can make keeping track of appointments, commitments, and lessons easier for busy stay-at-home moms. They’re a good alternative to paper schedules and planners for anyone who needs a to-the-minute schedule.
But they aren’t designed for casual users. They can be helpful for casual users, and certainly, project an aura of tech-savvy and professionalism that can be valuable in some social circles. But that isn’t what they were designed for.
Just because you don’t fit the profile of the ideal user doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own a smartwatch. But it’s an important consideration if you’re trying to decide whether a smartwatch is worth the investment.
Okay. We’ve talked about the pros and cons of smartwatches. We’ve discussed how they impact day to day life, and how they can make a significant difference, for good or ill.
Who do we think should own a smartwatch? Anyone who wants one, and is old enough to make that decision for themselves. There is no one ideal user. If you think the extra utility is worth it, go for it. If you don’t, skip this expense and spend the money elsewhere.
Hopefully, this article helped clear up any questions or concerns you had about smartwatches. But, at the end of the day, the only one who can decide if you should buy a smartwatch is you.
- Reasons To Get A Smartwatch
- Health Awareness
- Phone Calls
- Saving Your Smartphone Battery
- Reasons You Shouldn’t Get a Smartwatch
- A Fitness Tracker Offers Similar Benefits
- You Have to Charge Them Every Day
- Distraction, Especially for Children
- Are You Who Smartwatches are Designed For?