Here’s why you probably want a smartwatch: You can use it to do cool stuff like open doors, pay for coffee, and start cars. Here’s why you probably won’t buy one for another five years or so: There still aren’t many doors, stores, or cars that your smartwatch will work with. At the IFA electronics show in Berlin this week, Samsung Electronics Co., Lenovo Group and Huawei unveiled updated watches with upgraded features like tap-to-pay and the ability to interact with other devices ranging from your cell phone to your thermostat to your minivan. The stumbling block is that it will take several years before there are enough sensors in homes, businesses and vehicles to make it worth the trouble to strap on a smartwatch.
“FOR WATCHES TO BECOME MORE POPULAR AND MORE MAINSTREAM, THEY HAVE TO DELIVER A NUMBER OF CAPABILITIES TO BE RELEVANT,” SAID ANDY GRIFFITHS, HEAD OF SAMSUNG’S U.K. AND IRELAND DIVISION. “OUR EXPECTED TIMELINE IS OUT TO 2020.”
The hurdles are formidable. At IFA, Intel demonstrated wireless charging plates that can be fixed under desks or tables to charge devices, but said the system won’t be available until the end of next year at the earliest. “We are having to invent this from scratch,” Kirk Skaugen, Senior Vice President of Intel’s Client Computing Group, said in a presentation announcing the initiative. Meanwhile, new watch makers are crowding the market. Gartner Inc. estimates that about 40 million of the devices will be sold this year. While tech companies will sell 40 times as many mobile phones as watches this year, smartwatch sales will see an eight-fold increase, Gartner says.