The CEO of Chinese electronics maker Huawei raised eyebrows this week when he publicly trashed smartwatches.
“I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones,” Eric Xu Zhijun said, adding that he would never ever wear one himself — despite the fact that his own company makes them.
That may strike some as cold but his words should serve as a much-needed reality check to anyone still laboring under the delusion that they can persuade the general populace that wearing tiny touch displays on their wrists is the way of the future.
In fact, it’s high time we admit what Zhijun likely already knows: smartwatches are doomed.
It wasn’t always supposed to be this way. Less than three years ago analysts were predicting the industry would be on fire.
The Apple Watch was going to usher in a new era of smartwatches. Pebble, one of the original Kickstarter success stories, was soaring. Tech pundits were breathlessly awaiting Android Wear and insisting that sharing your heartbeat with an Apple Watch was going to be the new sexting.
Except, of course, it wasn’t.
Cut to the present and Pebble is deader than the ashes of a burned up Galaxy Note7. Fitbit, the most popular wearable brand, can’t get its first real smartwatch out the door (and, by all accounts, it’s so ugly no one will want one when they do). Android Wear is a buggy, fractured, mess and even Apple, which is reportedly selling more smartwatches than anyone else, still won’t say how many Apple Watches it has sold (not surprising when sales in the low two digits is a market leader.)
But those are all symptoms of the bigger problem with smartwatches, the one that no one is talking about: watches, plain old analog watches, are dying a slow death and they are taking their “smart” counterparts down with them.
If you’d rather use your phone over a watch then what good is a smaller, buggier, version on your wrist?
I’ve never regularly worn a watch in my life. I’m not alone. Fewer and fewer people, especially young people, are wearing watches, according to analysts. In fact, chances are good that if you’re a millennial, your smartphone is your main timepiece — a trend that seems unlikely to reverse.
Now, I’m not saying that all watches are going to die any time soon. Watches will no doubt continue to be a mainstay in offices, courtrooms, schools, hospitals, and anywhere else smartphones aren’t readily accessible for the foreseeable future. (Or at least until we get the augmented reality contact lenses we keep being promised.)
But even that doesn’t bode well for smartwatches. If you’d rather use your phone over a watch then what good is a smaller, buggier, version on your wrist? And if you’d rather have a real, old school retro analog watch, why would you ever choose a more expensive smartwatch that will become obsolete months after you buy it?
Face it: Huawei’s Zhijun was spot on. Smartwatches just don’t add up.