What is Today’s Smartwatch?

Article by Andrew Devlin, Group User Experience Director at AKQA and Bertrand Everwyn, Senior Technical Delivery Manager at AKQA

Since the early 80’s, smartwatches have been the next big thing. However, until very recently none of the products launched had a real impact considering their relatively small sales and general appeal to the mass market. For a long time, technology has been the limiting factor and tech brands were mainly owning this market. They were targeting very specific needs and consumers such as fitness enthusiasts, runners or cyclists. During the last 5 years however, technology has evolved at an incredible pace has never been so powerful to build compelling digital experiences with.

In recent years lifestyle brands – and even luxury brands such as TAG Heuer –  have entered the market with products that are highly attuned to their customers’ needs. Traditional watchmakers have been able to embrace Silicon Valley technology to unlock future potential with a more digital-savvy, always-on audience. Decades of watchmaking heritage and craftsmanship are now blended with this new digital world to offer something more, to cater for their consumers’ ever-increasing demands in a Connected World.

To be successful, smartwatches must answer the needs of their users. Smartwatches should not be an extension of a smartphone; they also need to enhance their users’ experiences. For traditional watchmakers, this is the next generation of technology to innovate with. This is one of the most important innovations for them since the quartz watches a few decades ago. With the new TAG Heuer Connected modular 45, TAG Heuer saw an opportunity to engage a much younger audience that will become their next generation of customers, and they take this smartwatch market very seriously.

While technology is still a key factor for consumers looking to invest in a smartwatch, more traditional watchmakers must meet the expectation of also delivering a piece of art, crafted as a timeless heirloom. Lifestyle and luxury brands are merging modern technology with their heritage to create the optimum watch experience that combines the best of both worlds.

People wear traditional watches for a reason, doing so long before smartwatches were around. We now find ourselves in a place where we see technology enhancing the devices themselves, in a way that seamlessly fits why people wear a watch in the first place. You no longer have to wear a watch for style OR utility, you can have the best of both worlds, and this is how lifestyle brands are affecting the market, increasing appeal to a broader audience.

As technology continues to advance, smartwatches will become even further integrated into the ecosystems we build around us – in our homes, in our cars, and everywhere we go. We will have access to smartwatches that are more versatile, that we can use for a breadth of reasons – to exercise, for business, or at home to control our other connected devices.

With the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence and sophisticated biometric sensors, our watches will become pivotal as an interface providing us with what we need, when we need it. As smartwatches become more powerful, intelligent and connected to other smart products, they will offer even greater value to owners in their everyday lives. Their potential is still largely untapped, and lifestyle brands will play a large part in continued adoption of the technology if they continue to meet the aesthetic and utility needs of their users.

If they do this, smartwatches have the real opportunity to become the natural extension of our technological ecosystems, providing a wide range of additional value in our everyday lives, that we will just consider as being the new norm.