THROWBACK THURSDAY: Smart Watch Failures

It took a long time for smart watches to become “a thing.” Even today, there are few of them that really have any measure of success. Fitbit has, surprisingly, managed to carve out a niche among Android users and those who don’t want to pay Apple’s notoriously high prices. On the other hand, Apple finally got it right with their watch after 7 generations and counting. By adding features that people actually use and realizing that older folks still buy consumer electronics, they carved a hit out of a bona fide flop.

It wasn’t always like that

About nine years ago, I was under some pressure from other members of the blog staff to talk about smart watches. I considered it a waste of time, but somehow I managed to emerge from my curmudgeonly haze long enough to pen this article which talks about the history of smart watches. It also predicts the eventual failure of the whole category.

And fail they did — none of the watches shown in that article is still in production except the inexplicable Casio calculator watch. I’ve looked at this article over and over again during the years. Even as recently as 2017 it was easy to believe that Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple were just flailing around, pushing something that no one wanted.

It’s hard to predict the future

Five years ago, if you’d asked me about the next big flop, I would have called out Apple’s AirPods. Expensive and prone to falling out, they seemed like a serious misstep just when Apple needed a hit. AirPods did manage to flourish simply because they exemplified what Apple does right. If you have Apple products, AirPods work flawlessly. They banish the demons of Bluetooth back to the hell from which they emerged. And, for a lot of folks, that’s worth paying for. Later generations of AirPods stay in the ear better, and that’s a benefit for sure. In the meantime, there’s been so many competing products that true wireless Bluetooth ear buds are now the norm.

Still, one thing that’s been really obvious lately is how we can’t quite get to “the next big thing.” You know this kind of thing when you see it. It was your first TV, the first time you got cable, your first computer, your first internet connection, your first cell phone. It was the smartphone that made it possible to do all those things in a palm-sized device. But what’s the next big thing after that? It doesn’t seem to be smart watches, or glasses, or VR. I don’t know what it will be. If I did, I’d be investing in it right now.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.