Is the iWatch Meant to Be the Smartphone Killer?

Could Apple’s rumored smartwatch — dubbed the iWatch, of course — push smartphones into the backseat of the mobile market?

Smartphone as Child ToyJay Yarrow at BusinessInsider thinks it might. “Just as the smartphone killed the flip phone, and the iPad is killing the traditional PC, something is going to come along and kill the smartphone,” he writes.

I’m not convinced, at least about the smartwatch. But I do think the notion of smartphones disappearing being replaced by a technology that’s more capable and convenient is compelling.

Smartphones of the Immediate Future

Before we can visualize what has the potential to replace our smartphones, we should first establish the direction we’re heading.

A decade from now, I expect a phone’s current native voice calling and texting capabilities to be replaced by VoiP and online mobile messaging solutions. It’s already happening with apps like FaceTime, Viber and Whatsapp, though we still have to fall back to native services, especially when data connections are unreliable.

And while we do enjoy our social networking, Web browsing, gaming and photography, most of these offer better experiences on larger screens. It might be a stretch to say that the limited screen real estate of the smartwatch will replace the smartphone’s.

So What Will Be the Smartphone Killer?

So what gadgets might be radical to make us give up our smartphones?

Wearable computers, for one, offer a quick and convenient way to interact with apps and the world. Google Glass is the first example of this technology that comes to mind. If it can handle complex interactions and has a high quality display, such devices have the potential to send smartphones the way of personal digital assistants.

Another possibility is that that smartphones will undergo such massive changes that we give them a new name.

What Do We Want?

One challenge today’s smartphones face is the need to balance pocketability and screen size. Apple has been pretty conservative here: It’s only increased the iPhone’s screen once. On the other hand, Samsung has been pushing the limits with its Galaxy Note series.

I can imagine a smartphone with a huge concealable display that can be unfolded to a size of a newspaper, and then be folded back into a regular smartphone screen. It’d be even better if we could determine the size screen we needed based on our surroundings, like an airplane, coffee shop, or living room.

Smartphones aren’t ready to be buried yet, but for some people they’re already old news. If you’re willing to carry around a mid-sized tablet like the Nexus 7 or iPad mini, it’s possible to accessorize and use it as a smartphone. With a larger display, you can get a better experience and save money with cheaper devices and carrier smartphone plans. At least that’s one thing to do while we wait for the technology to shake out.

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Image: Smartphone as Child Toy [Flickr]

2 Responses to “Is the iWatch Meant to Be the Smartphone Killer?”

  1. You may be skeptical, but the “smartwatch” has been around for over 50 years, albeit only on Dick Tracy’s wrist. This seems to be the practical implementation of that and will certainly have its uses and likely take over traditional communications handled by the phone.
    And the iPad hasn’t take away the role of the traditional PC but rather took away the consumption portion that was in need of a better solution. The production portion is still very much intact until iPads learn how to give users the ability to type 80wpm and easily handle other design issues that work much better with keyboards.
    Basically, what we’re seeing is that marketshare is splitting into segments that before were solved generically (PC/phone) and now have new and better solutions (portability, size, etc.)

  2. I think what we are going to ultimately end up with is a single computing device and a handful of associated peripherals. Your phone, watch, glasses ect. will all connect to a central device (possibly the phone) which will maintain the larger screen size, processing power, battery and whatnot. You take it with you when you wish to be mobile, and then when you come home drop it in a docking station to connect to your much larger monitor, mouse, and keyboard. One won’t replace the other but will work with it instead. As more services get pushed to the cloud and these devices are capable of doing more and more the need for a dedicated desktop will be reduced.