Wearable devices are cool. That is not even an argument. They are literally the physical manifestation of everyone’s young geek dreams.

But ask anyone if they are practical, and you will get completely different answers. The efficiency of that shiny new high tech wristband is a subject that will just not have a direct consensus, on the simple basis that there are a wide variety of them out there.

So we ask instead, are wearables worth any particular given investment? In other words, at what point would wearables become barely efficient enough to climb somewhere near being a necessity?

Disclaimer: This short article will not discuss head wearable devices such as augmented and virtual reality glasses and/or headsets. We believe those gadgets deserve their very own separate discussion article.

Case One: Redundant Features

According to one study conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine in 2015, smartphones were just as accurate as fitness trackers when comparing similar features. Granted, there was a generation gap between the tested devices, but the message was clear: if you want to use fitness tracker features, don't waste your bucks; use a phone instead.

But as obvious as the study’s results may seem, it missed an even more blatant point that further put behind early generation wearable technology. Smartphones are not just as accurate, they can pretty much also do a lot of the same things smartwatches do.

Users of smartwatches often point out that such devices are already worth buying in terms of their convenience alone. That editing lists, taking notifications, and receiving emails all without having to unlock your phone already warrants the ownership of a smartwatch.

However, they fail to elaborate that these features are often done in a level of quality typically lower than that of a phone. Can you really read longer emails properly with such a tiny screen? Can entire lists even be visible for editing? The features become rather minimalized, mitigating their supposed productivity benefits.

This does not even factor the margin of error these wearables are potentially prone to. Accelerometer based step-counters for example, only ever detect general changes in motion. This means any repetitive major muscle movement could cause a false register.

Perhaps the most damning detail of them all, is that all of those redundant features are packaged within a minimum price almost equal to that of an entry level brand smartphone.

In this regard, wearables are just not efficient enough for your everyday productivity needs. Not even close. You have to be the early adopter in order to even get to the hype.

Case Two: Exclusive Features

But as wearable technology improved through the next few years, several development milestones were achieved. Heartbeat monitors for example, can now be used in tandem with a GPS and all the other classic tracking systems to create a more accurate picture of the user’s activity level.

Of course, if purely for tracking the most efficient route that you take to work, it is hardly a necessity. However, when these exclusive features are repurposed for more straightforward applications, the investment becomes far more relevant.

Take the simple, almost stupid feature of most smartwatches today: finding your phone. If you really think that your phone is the far superior productivity tool, then your smartwatch can still help you find this precious tool for you to effectively use.

This universally basic feature is even more important when you consider just how risky would it be to lose a corporate related device with your personal account logged into it.

Remember the notorious incident of the lost prototype iPhone 4? If smartwatches existed back then, a notification could have been sent to you to inform that you are now away from your connected phone. Then the incident might not have spiralled out of control as it had.

Even heartbeat monitors alone are already integrated well into current generation fitness trackers that the device itself can call for help if the user suddenly gets a dangerously spiked reading. Not exactly related to productivity, but it is an issue that is essentially even more important.

Bonus Case: Future Features

How even more sophisticated can wrist-based smart devices become in the future? We can’t really predict. But as more and more practical features get crammed into one, its price point should become less and less relevant. With enough “effective” features, efficiency is technically guaranteed, even if it is introduced at almost smartphone level price points.

In addition, newer tech breakthroughs such 5-nanometer processors are already pushing into the commercial tech industry. It should be safe to assume, so long as early supporters exist, that it won’t be long before we finally see the ultimate, do-everything, wrist gadget of our geeky childhood dreams.

Photo by Crew on Unsplash.

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