What is a Smart Watch?

What is a Smart WatchThose of us who have a passion for smart watches sometimes lose sight of the fact that smartwatches are a very new field of technology. It is easy for us get involved; deeply delving into the latest features of, say the Moto 360, or the battery life of the Apple watch, and we forget that there is a large part of the population who simply don’t know what a smartwatch is! It is for those people that I am writing this article.

I am going to answer the simple question we often forget to answer: What is a smartwatch? The obvious related question is: What does a smartwatch do? Let’s give you the 101.


They Tell The Time!

Smartwatch Watch FacesOf course, the name is smart watch, so firstly, they tell the time! Unlike a regular watch, though, they don’t have physical hands. Instead, they display information via some kind of display. This can be based on LED technology (much like a smartphone), or LCD technology (much like a calculator or traditional digital watch). Having a display—rather than physical hands—means the user can select different watch faces. Users can swap styles of watch faces at will. You can choose from a simple analogue watch face—which mimics the look of a traditional watch, a digital watch face—which displays the time and other related information in a clear format, or even some cryptic-looking faces only a true nerd could love.

Perhaps the best thing is that you can enhance the information shown on your watch by choosing complications. These are extra pieces of information, such as the date, the day/month, the current temperature, or how many steps you have taken today. Most users eventually settle on a few favorite watch faces, and even have one for casual use, and one for special occasions when they need a more formal look.


It's All About Notifications

Smartwatch NotificationsMoving from basic watch functions, the next (and primary) function of a smartwatch is to mirror notifications from your smartphone to your watch. New e-mail? New text message? Facebook notification? Time for your next meeting or appointment? It’s all displayed as a notification on your watch—saving you having to fish your phone out to see what it is. This doesn’t sound like much, but most people find it to be a boon when they realize that they’re having to take their watch out so much less. Most notifications can be simply ignored or dismissed. Doing this tens or hundreds of times a day really adds up to added convenience.

Actionable Notifications

Some notifications require an action on your part, but the action is small, such as simply dismissing the notification, deleting the e-mail, sending a quick, short reply to the text message or snoozing that notification. This is the domain of actionable notifications, and they save you having to fish your phone out even for these. The notification for an e-mail, for instance, is usually accompanied by one button (or one or two swipe) actions which allow you to delete the message, send a pre-written reply (think: “OK. Thanks”), or even dictate a short reply into your watch. These are a real time-saver. Anything requiring a more comprehensive action or reply will be done on your smartphone or computer, of course.

User-Initiated Actions

Finally, you can initiate actions on your smartwatch. This can be as simple as calculating tip percentage, asking for the nearest restaurant, or controlling your lights or thermostat at home. Really, the sky is the limit with this kind of functionality, and the number (and type) of things you can achieve are increasing daily as more applications are released. For an idea of this more comprehensive type of activity, you may wish to read this article where some examples of what can be achieved with a smartwatch are listed.

Hopefully, this has given you an idea of exactly what a smartwatch is, and the kind of things smartwatches do. The good thing is that you can use your smartwatch exactly as you desire. You can use it as little more than a watch. You can use it for simply receiving notifications, or you can get deep into James Bond or Star Trek territory. The choice is yours!

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