When cellular manufacturers embraced Bluetooth technology and created wireless headsets, businesses and professionals responded with enthusiasm.
Recently, manufacturers such as Samsung have taken that technology as the basis for smartwatches that integrate with the user’s mobile phone. This has been lauded as a similarly significant breakthrough.
Now it appears that Samsung is poised to take the next step: moving from its Galaxy handset-integrated Gear to a standalone version of the device. This new iteration of the Gear will have its own independent cellular connection to allow its operation in the absence of a mobile phone.
Work is underway in South Korea
According to reports from the Korea Herald, Samsung and SK Telecom — both companies based in South Korea — are working together to produce and release to SK Telecom subscribers an early version of the device that would have wireless connection capabilities.
Success of such a device in South Korea would likely lead to its release elsewhere, particularly given Samsung’s broad global presence.
Benefits of a stand-alone smartwatch
Like Google Glass, a stand-alone Gear product should open up novel possibilities for consumers. Considering the popular current use of smartwatches as an accessory for fitness tracking, the new Gear product would allow even more flexibility in fitness pursuits: it would allow runners, bikers, and others to leave their phone at home while continuing to receive progress reports and stay in touch during training.
This kind of use would seem suitable for even early releases of a Samsung smartwatch or similar technology from any other company, because the limited use would not be overly taxing for a small device, and would not require any of the advanced features that are at least currently possible only on a smartphone.
Where would smartwatches fit into our digital arsenals?
Given the early state of smartwatch technology, it would be unreasonable to expect that such devices, even with stand-alone cellular and wireless connectivity capability, would be suitable replacements for mobile devices.
One major obstacle cannot be remedied in any practical way. Most people enjoy the large amount of screen real estate provided by the latest smartphones, and any smartwatch that attempted to replicate the screen size of a phone would be comically large and unwieldy.
However, if the capabilities of wearable technology expand and can replicate at least some of the smartphone experience, people may feel more comfortable keeping their smartphones at home or out of sight. Additionally, sleek smartphones might become secondary to tablets (or at least tablet-sized smartphones).
Manufacturers and users would be more likely to embrace larger screens and less portability on such devices. Users would more likely lean on their smartwatch for daily use and reserve phones and tablets for more intense activities such as business projects, marketing and management, website creation, or reading long articles, as opposed to scrolling through Twitter, texting and messaging, and speaking to friends and family.
One thing is certain: The price of such devices will have to decrease before they can become more widely embraced, particularly while their capabilities remain comparatively limited.