Why Smartwatches Still Don’t Cut It

Is Bluetooth the Weak Link?

CCS Insight has amassed an impressive collection of wearable devices over the past few years. We believe it’s important to have first-hand experience with the devices, software and apps if we’re to speak with conviction about the category, and our chief of research Ben Wood and I have trialled a huge spectrum of wearable devices. The image below shows just a small part of the ever-growing collection we regularly showcase at gatherings like CCS Insight’s annual Predictions Event.


Smartwatches are of particular interest to me. I’ve used numerous models, from headline devices by major manufacturers to products from small companies and crowd-funded start-ups, and each differ through apps, functionality and form. However, a common theme is that I’ve not used one continuously for longer than two months.

A smartwatch’s battery life often comes under significant scrutiny, but I wanted to highlight an important factor that I’m surprised is overlooked: the battery life of the smartphone it’s tethered to.

Most top-tier smartphones offer about a day’s worth of battery life, and Bluetooth LE is still another drain on this despite its very low power consumption. If my handset’s running low, I’m faced with the decision to ignore it for the sake of using the smartwatch or to switch Bluetooth off. I’ve always opted for the latter.

I might be prepared to charge my smartphone multiple times if a smartwatch provided meaningful benefits for me, but I currently don’t hesitate to untether my devices. This reduces the utility of the watch, but I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything.

However, I remain optimistic. I’ve caught glimpses of potentially indispensable uses for smartwatches, including contactless payments and contextual notifications. The devices are even starting to achieve classically attractive designs. But those benefits are presently too few and far between, particularly considering the detrimental effect on a smartphone’s battery length. I’ll continue to trial the devices with interest, but I’m not ready to make the smartwatch a vital part of my daily life just yet.