I’ll make this quick: smartwatches sound great in theory. If I could get more than just the day/date and time on my wrist, I’d be ecstatic. Android Wear makes a lot of sense, with Google Now notifications and voice commands. And Motorola’s new offering, the handsome Moto 360, doesn’t trip over itself with a overwhelming feature set. Plus, it costs a not-too-crazy $250. So what’s the problem?
We’re looking at the first generation of smartwatches right now, so obviously, mostly early adopters are going to pick these up for the next year or so. But those buyers are going to have to deal with one major issue: battery life. With traditional watches, wearers are used to going a year or two without switching out the battery, which means they’re good to go whenever you strap them on. Smartwatches are trying to score the same spot of prime real estate, but require frequent recharging, and often with proprietary chargers.
The Moto 360 barely lasts 12 hours, says The Verge‘s David Pierce in his review — and to me, that makes this device more of a proof-of-concept than a marketable product. What’s worse is that you can’t just hook up the watch anywhere to charge it; you’ll need to drop the watch onto the bundled wireless charging dock to bring it back to life after half a day of use.
As someone who’s had their iPhone 5s die several times while away from a power source and an MFi Lightning connector (damn you, damn you to hell for this power trap, Apple), I know where that downward spiral leads: into an abyss of powerlessness and frustration with your expensive gadget, where you wonder why you bought it in the first place.
Poor battery life and that damn charger make the Moto 360 feel like a toy you can’t pull out of the box it came in. As it is, smartwatches are reliant on smartphones being within close proximity to receive notifications and data to be useful — and now there’s this additional short leash holding them back from integrating into users’ lifestyles without becoming another technological burden.
If you must own a smartwatch right now, Pebble’s offerings start at $150 ($250 for the elegant Pebble Steel), support a solid range of apps and run for a week on a single charge. Me? I’m going to sit this generation of smartwatches out, and wait for when I can pick one of them up off my nightstand to wear, not off a charging dock.