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How smartwatches will augment location

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So the rumors were right. Apple released a watch today. There will be 3 different “collections”, but lots of flexibility in terms of how each can be customized. There’s a big emphasis on health and fitness monitoring. Prices start at $350. And you’ll need an iPhone. Though you won’t be able to get one on your wrist until next year.

Who knows whether or not it’ll catch on in the same way that iPod and iPhone did, but I think it has a damn good shot (more on this below). They’ve clearly put a lot of thought into both usability and the whole fashion side of the equation, which obviously needed to be done. Given that most people today use their phone for the time, the watch market strikes me as being heavily about style.

In case you were wondering, here’s the watch market size as of 2013 (courtesy of Benedict Evans):

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A lot of you might be skeptical about the need for a computer on your wrist (remember those watch calculators from the 80s?). But I think this time is different. Consider the number of people that now walk around with their phone in their hand and/or immediately pull it out whenever they have a free moment. We’ve become reliant (okay, addicted), to notifications and information.

But in many of those cases, the smartphone isn’t the most efficient medium to be delivering those messages. Just like it’s not ideal to have to reach into your pocket to figure out what time it is, I think the watch could emerge as a new and better medium for a bunch of other pieces of information. And the big one could be location-aware or contextually-aware notifications.

Here’s a tweet from Dennis Crowley – founder of Foursquare (Swarm) – talking about that exact thing:

So what does this even mean?

It means walking into a restaurant and having a tip pop up on your watch telling you what the best dish is (as shown in the tweet above). It’s driving down the street and having your watch notify you that there’s an open house 3 blocks away (and then giving you directions). It’s walking into a condo building and having your watch tell you that one of your friends is having a party on the 23rd floor. And so on.

All of these notifications are currently already possible on your phone, but it’s not the ideal place for many of them. Which is why we’re all walking through life looking down at our phones. So while a computer strapped to your wrist may feel like we’re going further down that rabbit hole, it may actually free up more of our hands and our attention.

And I’m sure there are many other possibilities that nobody has even thought of yet. Location just feels like a big one to me.

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