Sony Smartwatch

There’s been a lot of hype about smartwatches over the last year or so, not least because of the rumours that Apple was developing one. Sony, Samsung, Archos and many more manufacturers are falling over themselves to release a ‘smart’ watch, but keep your wallet firmly closed: none of these devices are worth your cash.

For a start, none of the smartwatches that you can currently buy even remotely live up to their name. They all rely on your smartphone to provide the information and internet connection; in reality these wristbands are – if anything – dumbwatches.

Notifications, text message alerts, music control and more: none of it is any use at all if you don’t have your smartphone about your person. And that being the case, what’s the point in a second, tiny screen to relay information that you could get simply by taking your Nexus 5 out of your pocket.

Samsung Galaxy GearIt’s easier to read a message, email or see the full details of a meeting (including a map) on your smartphone’s large screen. And while it may be convenient to skip to the next song via your wrist, I can already do that as well as adjust volume using the in-line remote on my headphones.

You might even be able to reply to a text or email from your smartwatch, but only using pre-defined phrases. On a smartphone you can comfortably type on the screen or – better still – use voice recognition. Most people don’t bother with this, but little do they realise that not only has the likes of Siri and Google Voice come on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, but also that it’s far faster to say “Text my wife to say I’ll be home in an hour” than to find and launch the messages app, type the message, make corrections and then send it.

As far as I can see, smartwatches are an answer to a question that nobody is asking. All the people I know who’ve bought a smartwatch – all two of them - did so for its novelty value, not because it met a particular need they had.

They were disappointed by the watches’ limited capabilities, and the poor battery life which can be measured in hours rather than days, particularly if used heavily. Even the new breed of activity trackers – including the Fitbit Force – lasts nearly two weeks and is more of a smartwatch than anything we’ve seen from Sony, Samsung or Pebble. There are also dedicated fitness watches which can monitor your heart rate and track your progress via GPS - arguably smarter than displaying a meeting reminder.

Polar Garmin fitness watches

Really, a smartwatch needs the internals from a smartphone to succeed. As well as an internet connection, it also needs a GPS receiver to tell you where you are and how to get where you’re going. However, even that’s only a partial description of what a smartwatch should be, yet the devices you can buy today lack even those fundamentals.

The ability to install apps on a smartwatch also seems dumb. It’s much like the situation with apps on the latest generation of infotainment systems in cars: most are duplicates of those you already have installed on your smartphone. It just doesn’t make sense. All you need is for your smartphone’s audio and visuals to be replicated on a secondary screen. But even if a ‘dumb’ infotainment system in your car makes sense, it really doesn’t on your wrist.

The only real excuse – and excuse is the right word – for buying a smartwatch right now is because you want to own something that no-one else has. But just like Google Glass, all that’s going to do is make you look like a freak.

Don’t agree? Leave a comment below.