Smartwatches Aren’t Exciting Anymore. This is a good thing

smart watches it can monitor workouts, tell when it’s time to go to bed, unlock doors and make phone calls. It must be exciting that a small device sitting on your wrist can do all this, right? False.

To put it bluntly, smartwatches are boring. And this is not a criticism; actually the opposite. Now that smartwatches have been around for nearly a decade, companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google understand their role in our lives much better. This sentiment was also reflected in the sales data. According to Counterpoint Research, global smartwatch shipments increased 13% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2022. According to a Pew Research survey conducted in June 2019, nearly one in five Americans now uses a fitness tracker or smartwatch.

Today’s smartwatches are more purposeful and useful than their predecessors nearly six years ago. But this kind of progress also means that annual upgrades aren’t as meaningful as they used to be. I’ve experienced this first hand while migrating. Apple Watch Series 7 for Series 8. Other than the Series 8’s ability to collect temperature data from my wrist overnight (which I’ve yet to find useful), there’s little that sets Apple’s newest smartwatch apart from last year’s model. And it’s not just Apple; The same can be said for Samsung and Google.

The new smartwatches in 2022 are improvements, not revolutions

Apple Watch Series 8

Scott Stein/CNET

Many new smartwatches released in 2022 felt like gradual upgrades. While brands like Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit introduce new sensors, the general direction and purpose of these devices remains the same as their predecessors.

get Fitbit Sense 2for example, a health-focused smartwatch that includes a new body response sensor to passively scan for signs of stress throughout the day. One step ahead of the original Perceptioncan only receive on-demand scans. But the use case behind the technology is ultimately the same: helping you understand when you might be stressed. The difference is that Fitbit has found a more efficient way to achieve this goal with Sense 2.

Launched in August, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 has a bigger battery, a more robust sapphire crystal display, and a new skin temperature sensor that hasn’t done much yet. But these are the most important differences that separate it from the Galaxy Watch 4. Galaxy Watch 5 ProIt offers a very similar experience, but other than that, it has an even bigger battery, a titanium design, and a few extras tailor-made for nature lovers.

Overall, the Galaxy Watch 5 and 5 Pro feel like slightly more advanced versions of the Galaxy Watch 4, rather than giant leaps forward. As my colleague Lexy Savvides wrote in her review, the Galaxy Watch 5 is “not groundbreaking in the smartwatch world”. Instead, it reiterates the Galaxy Watch’s position as a versatile Android smartwatch that provides a balance of health tracking, exercise tracking, and smartphone-focused features.

Fitbit Sense 2 smartwatch

Fitbit Sense 2

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

same situation for Apple Watch Series 8. The new temperature sensor is the Series 8’s biggest upgrade, although its purpose seems limited for now. Because both have temperature sensors, the Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra can provide retrospective ovulation predictions, which can be useful for family planning or general health tracking. But the Apple Watch’s nightly wrist temperature measurement seems to add little value at the moment. It doesn’t seem to have touched on any other health insights, and it’s largely up to the user to make sense of the temperature graph that appears in Apple’s Health app.

The most practical addition to Apple’s new line of smartwatches may be their ability to detect car crashes through improved sensors and algorithms. But even car accident detection along with the temperature sensor reinforces the Apple Watch’s value as a health and safety device and underlines the direction Apple has taken over the past few years.

this Pixel Watch and Apple Watch Ultra There may be two exceptions. They feel really exciting as they represent a new field for Google and Apple. Still, even these watches don’t bring anything entirely new to the smartwatch landscape in general. Instead, they fill in gaps that previously existed in Google’s and Apple’s programs. The Pixel Watch, for example, is Google’s first truly consumer smartwatch and the best Android alternative to the Apple Watch. Rugged design, dual frequency Apple Watch Ultra GPS and the built-in siren means a high-end sports watch that can compete with the likes of Garmin and Casio.

How have smart watches progressed?

Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch

The Samsung Galaxy Gear was one of the first iterations of the modern smartwatch. Frankly, they’ve come a long way.

To understand why new smartwatch releases don’t feel as important as before, it’s important to consider how far the industry has come. The smartwatch space looked very different in the 2014-16 timeframe.

Year-over-year upgrades felt more substantial, as the first smartwatches had key shortcomings. Features that are considered standard on many watches today, such as built-in GPS, optional cellular connectivity, and heart rate monitors, weren’t always available. For example, the 2017-era Apple Watch Series 3 was the first Apple Watch to offer cellular connectivity, and it really felt like it could free you from your phone. The original version of Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch, released in 2015, didn’t even have speakers or built-in GPS. And the LG G Watch from 2014 didn’t have a heart rate sensor.

Samsung Gear Live smartwatch and LG G Watch

Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch

It also took years for Google and Apple to refine their software for smartwatches. This is especially true for Google, which has jointly revamped its smartwatch operating system after years of stagnation with Samsung. The first Apple Watch wasn’t loading apps as fast as it should, either. Take another look at CNET’s reviews of the first smartwatches from Samsung, Apple, LG, and Motorola and you’ll notice that the software was a common criticism.

On top of that, smartwatch designs were bulkier and less attractive back then. (Galaxy Gear and Fitbit Surge, I’m looking at you!) Believe it or not, these older smartwatches were priced similarly to the vastly improved models available today, making it hard to recommend buying them at the time.

Where are we going from here?

Apple Watch Ultra and Series 8

Comparison of Apple Watch Ultra (left) and 41mm Series 8 (right)

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Addressing many of the issues that plagued early smartwatches, the question of where the industry would go next came to the fore. The companies behind these smartwatches are the only ones who can answer this question. But I would like Apple, Google, Samsung and other smartwatch manufacturers to develop more features that take advantage of the powerful new sensors in their devices.

The temperature sensor of the Apple Watch Series 8 is an obvious example of a new sensor that needs more functionality to unlock its full potential. As I’ve written in the past, I hope to see Apple weave these temperature insights into other types of reading, similar to what device maker Oura has done with its “readiness score.” Or what if the Apple Watch could sync with HomeKit devices to help you figure out if your room temperature is affecting your sleep? There are many possible ways Apple could take temperature sensing technology to make it feel like a bigger part of the Apple Watch experience.

There are many other ways smartwatches can continue to evolve. For example, the installation experience still largely depends on your phone. It’s this change that could make smartwatches feel more valuable as standalone devices, following other recent improvements, such as the ability to access app stores directly from your wrist. And of course the battery life could have been better.

As generation upgrades start to feel more mundane, software is starting to fill that gap. We’re already seeing this on the Apple Watch today, with new features like the ability to track sleep stages and new workout stats for runners via the watchOS 9 software update launched in September. Google is taking a similar approach with the Pixel Watch and Fitbit’s latest smartwatches. Google brings Maps and Wallet apps to Sense 2 and Versa 4, while Fitbit’s in-depth sleep analysis feature has just been made available for Pixel Watch.

These software features are probably just as important as the hardware upgrades we saw last year. But that doesn’t mean smartwatches have become boring in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a sign of progress.

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