Will the smartwatch kill the smartphone?

Two experts do battle over what the future holds for our devices
Will the smartwatch kill the smartphone?

The rise of the smartwatch has got all the mobile makers of the world in something of a flurry. Just as the feature phone is now all but extinct, is the modern day mobile set to suffer the same fate at the hands of a wrist-worn wearable. Will the smartwatch kill the smartphone?

Essential reading: The world's best smartwatches

With both Intel and the Samsung Gear S showing that wearables can work entirely independently of the mobile in your pocket, we put the question to a pair industry experts as to whether this is the beginning of a trend that’s here to stay or just some devices attempting to differentiate themselves.

The man in charge of the ZenWatch project at Asus, CY, was the first in the Wareable interrogation room leaving Nicolas Olivier, CEO of Connected Device (the company behind the Cogito watches), sitting outside listening to the screams as he awaited his turn. You can read their confessions below.

CY - ZenWatch Project Leader, Asus

“The smartwatch won’t kill the smartphone. Smartwatches are still phone companions and I can’t see that there will be a trend to replace them. There are lots functions that still require a larger screen and larger computing powers.

“We believe that smartwatches will have more and more apps. Users will be able to customise their own watches and that’s only going to increase with Android Wear offering more app access through the Google Play Store.

“However, I do think smartwatches will end up being more independent, for sure. It’s definitely better for smartwatches to still have some kind of smart functions even when they’re disconnected to the phone. It’s important for them to have a purpose in their own right. A standalone smartwatch is good but a watch paired to a mobile is best.

"The interesting trend is that phones are getting bigger and bigger for more entertainment purposes while it’s the tiny, wearable, convenient size of the smartwatch that offers the benefits of instant information.

"Phone calls, playing games, browsing websites; they’re all important smartphone functions that are never going to be as good on a watch."

Nicolas Olivier - CEO of Connected Devices

"Wearables make better sense in so many situations – they are more convenient and more secure than many devices we carry. Some users will want full phone functionality on their wrists, but to have real, mainstream appeal, the smartwatch needs to complement the smartphone, not duplicate it.

"On the wrist, simplicity is important but that does not necessarily mean fewer features. Rather than pare down functionality, the smartwatch needs to get more personal with features to fit user lifestyle and reflect their priorities.

"Wearables also work with simple gestures; much simpler and faster than the complex motions of smartphones. They’ll also continue to work even in cases when the smartphone is broken, stolen, forgotten or has a dead battery.

"With Cogito, we see the watch as an ideal form factor for delivering essential notifications, at a glance, and sharing short messages. It's great for simple inputs, like remote camera control and remote triggers through IFTTT for web-enabled appliances. A smartwatch equipped for activity monitoring and contactless payment also makes good sense."


According to our industry experts smartwatches won't be taking over for the foreseeable future, at least. But if all that’s keeping the smartphone alive is a big screen for watching movies, then they might just be a projectable display or a pair of smartglasses away from being truly obsolete.

1 Comment

  • JanSt says:


    as someone who hasn't worn a watch in 30 (!) years my views are probably niche views.

    I do see a few problems: the mainstream media. Prior to the iPhone, we rarely saw things like firmware updates, phone apps and mobile services mentioned on the frontpage of Google News, or the Times or Guardian. It takes a BIG ONE to push new technology, or, as with smartphones, relatively old technology. We can all talk about the age of the web; the Twitter age etc blah blah. 

    In reality, the majority of people, of potential buyers still get their flavour of news through the same channels as their parents. The medium may have changed, but the traditional mainstream 

    media hulks still very much rule. And so-called alternative (web-based) media only join the club by becoming very similar to whatever the opposite of 'alternative' may be. See the Huff etc... H*ck, even BGR, the Verge and Engagdet might well be a weekend supplement in the WSJ.

    Can the iWatch, ***cough***, the Apple Watch become that BIG THING? Nobody expected the iPhone to become what it became.... But I see a difference to the iPhone: there is a difference between carrying a device in your pocket that 400 million other people also carry in their pocket, and wearing a device that your friends also wear. People are people - they want that grail: individuality as promised by a trillion dollar marketing machine. But they also want what their friends have, especially if that 'thing' does something enjoyable.

    Which leads to the next issue: fragmentation - or, as Google call it: differentiation.

    Pick a wearable that looks different, and oh my, it probably acts differently, too. Mission unaccomplished. We need to take off our geek glasses. MOST people do NOT know what model phone they use. That is a fact. Survey after survey reconfirms that. And if they know what model it is, they still, probably do not know what OS or OS version it runs on.

    With our smartphones that hardly matters anymore. A $100 or $1,000 phone? Both will probably do 98% of all they can do in very similar ways...  The same can only be said for 1 other wearable I'm aware of: the watch. The dumb watch, that is.

    Convergence, in a nutshell, made smartphones. 

    A year  before the iPhone Sony Ericsson launched the M600. A very iPod-esque device.

    What SE avoided (!) to mention in all its marketing material was this: the M600 was a smartphone. It was a booh-word. Related to work. The iPhone - love or hate it - changed that.

    And further convergence with high-quality camera technology sealed the deal: we all have them now. We are happy, industry is happy, the NSA is happy. The End.

    But: for wearables? Convergence as a saviour is out. Limits to screen-size and other factors make it impossible for now.

    And I suspect the big names of the smartphone world will keep pushing 'new' (repackaged or truly new) tech into the big uddered cow that is the smartphone industry. It's well established.

    Wearables are a risk. Even, I suspect, for Apple.

    Smaller unknown companies can do whatever amazing stuff they come up with - and there is a lot of amazing stuff in the world of wearables. But they have a serious uphill struggle.

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