Selfies. Social. And Style: Smartwatch UX Trends

From Antiques to Apple

“I don’t own a watch myself,” a great parting shot by Kevin of Timepiece Antique Clocks in the Liberties, Dublin.

I had popped in one rainy day in November to discover more about clock making and to get an old school perspective on smartwatches. Kevin’s comment made sense. “Why would he need to own a watch?” I asked myself, surrounded by so many wonderful clocks from across the ages, all keeping perfect time.

This made me consider what might influence people to use smartwatches? Such devices offer more than just telling the time.

From antiques to Apple: UX research in the Liberties, Dublin

From antiques to Apple: UX research in the Liberties, Dublin

2015 was very much the year of the smartwatch. The arrival of the Apple Watch earlier in 2015 sparked much press excitement and Usable Apps covered the enterprise user experience (UX) angle with two much-read blog pieces featuring our Group Vice President, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley).

Although the Apple Watch retains that initial consumer excitement (at the last count about 7 million units have shipped), we need to bear in mind that the Oracle Applications User Experience cloud strategy is not about one device. The Glance UX framework runs just as well on Pebble and Android Wear devices, for example.

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It’s not all about the face. Two exciting devices came my way in 2015 for evaluation against the cloud user experience: The Basis (left) and Vector Watch.

Overall, the interest in wearable tech and what it can do for the enterprise is stronger than ever. Here’s my (non-Oracle endorsed) take on what’s going to be hot and why in 2016 for smartwatch UX.

Trending Beyond Trendy

There were two devices that came my way in 2015 for evaluation that for me captured happening trends in smartwatch user experience.

First there was the Basis Peak (now just Basis). I covered elsewhere my travails in setting up the Basis and how my perseverance eventually paid off.

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Basis: The ultimate fitness and sleep tracker. Quantified self heaven for those non-fans of Microsoft Excel and notebooks. Looks great too!

Not only does the Basis look good, but its fitness functionality, range of activity and sleep monitoring “habits,” data gathering, and visualizations matched and thrilled my busy work/life balance. Over the year, the Basis added new features that reflected a more personal quantified self angle (urging users to take a “selfie”) and then acknowledged that fitness fans might be social creatures (or at least in need of friends) by prompting them to share their achievements, or “bragging rights,” to put it the modern way.

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Your bragging rights are about to peak: Notifications on Basis (middle).

Second there was the Vector Watch, which came to me by way of a visit to Oracle EPC in Bucharest. I was given a device to evaluate.

A British design, with development and product operations in Bucharest and Palo Alto too, the Vector looks awesome. The sophisticated, stylish appearance of the watch screams class and quality. It is easily worn by the most fashionable people around and yet packs a mighty user experience.

Vector Watch: Fit executive meets fashion.

Vector Watch: Fit executive meets fashion.

I simply love the sleek, subtle, How To Spend It positioning, the range of customized watch faces, notifications integration, activity monitoring capability, and the analytics of the mobile app that it connects with via Bluetooth. Having to charge the watch battery only 12 times (or fewer) each year means one less strand to deal with in my traveling Kabelsalat.

The Vector Watch affordance for notifications is a little quirky, and sure it’s not the Garmin or Suunto that official race pacers or the hardcore fitness types will rely on, and maybe the watch itself could be a little slimmer. But it’s an emerging story, and overall this is the kind of device for me, attracting positive comments from admirers (of the watch, not me) worldwide, from San Francisco to Florence, mostly on its classy looks alone.

I’m so there with the whole #fitexecutive thing.

Perhaps the Vector Watch exposes that qualitative self to match the quantified self needs of our well-being that the Basis delivers on. Regardless, the Vector Watch tells us that wearable tech is coming of age in the fashion sense. Wearable tech has to. These are deeply personal devices, and as such, continue the evolution of wristwatches looking good and functioning well while matching the user’s world and responding to what’s hot in fashion.

Heck, we are now even seeing the re-emergence of pocket watches as tailoring adapts and facilitates their use. Tech innovation keeps time and keeps up, too, and so we have Kickstarter wearabletech solutions for pocket watches appearing, designed for the Apple Watch.

The Three “Fs”

Form and function is a mix that doesn’t always quite gel. Sometimes compromises must be made trying to make great-looking, yet useful, personal technology. Such decisions can shape product adoption. The history of watch making tells us that.

Whereas the “F” of the smartwatch era of 2014–2015 was “Fitness,” it’s now apparent that the “F” that UX pros need to empathize with in 2016 will be “Fashion.” Fashionable technology (#fashtech) in the cloud, the device’s overall style and emotional pull, will be as powerful a driver of adoption as the mere outer form and the inner functionality of the watch.

The Beauty of Our UX Strategy

The Oracle Applications Cloud UX strategy—device neutral that it is—is aware of such trends, ahead of them even.

The design and delivery of beautiful things has always been at the heart of Jeremy Ashley’s group. Watching people use those beautiful things in a satisfied way and hearing them talk passionately about them is a story that every enterprise UX designer and developer wants the bragging rights to.

So, what will we see on the runway from Usable Apps in 2016 in this regard?

Stay tuned, fashtechistas!

Editor’s note: Cross-posted from Usableapps (@usableapps), thanks to our old mate Ultan (@ultan), a guy who knows both fashion and tech.

Update (3-AUG-2016): A worldwide recall of the Basis was announced today due to a risk of device overheating that may cause skin burns or blisters. Refunds are being offered. On the one hand, it is a shame this has come to pass; on the other, it is another indication that the wearable tech industry is now encountering real customer experience issues that need to be addressed. How Basis handles the next move will be interesting… 

One comment

  1. I think the Sony Smartwatch 2 is the smartest among the newest smartwatches today. Does anyone have the same idea with me?

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