Should smartwatches be refreshed every year?

July 2, 2016


It was only a matter of time before technology companies put a bigger focus on devices that strap to our wrists, but thanks to Pebble and their ridiculously popular Kickstarter projects, that time is already happening. Smartwatches and fitness bands with plenty of smarts packed inside are coming out with new features, new designs, and plenty of other new things every year.

In most cases we’re already seeing the proliferation in the market. Motorola already has two generations of its Moto 360 out there in the wild. And the company that kickstarted the whole thing (pun intended) in a big way, Pebble has plenty of different generations and models to choose from at this point. Huawei has smartwatches, Apple has a smartwatch that will probably see a second generation announced this year, and Samsung has a long line of wearables already, too.

Your mileage with a smartwatch may be vastly different than someone else’s, too. Out of the many conversations I’ve had with people regarding wearables, the fitness bands seem to be a “safer” bet for most people. Devices from the likes of Microsoft, Fitbit, and many others that deliver information related to the wearer’s health, but also throw in notifications and showing the time, too, just for good measure.

And, more often than not, those fitness bands aren’t as expensive as the smartwatch alternative, which probably plays a big role in adoption as well.

When Apple introduced the Apple Watch, they did so with three variants: The Apple Watch Sport was the cheapest of the bunch starting at $349, while the Apple Watch sat right there in the middle. And at the top was the Apple Watch Edition, with its price tag starting at $10,000. Now there is an Apple Watch Hermēs variant, with prices that start at $1,250.

That Apple Watch Edition variant left a lot of people asking a pretty simple question: Is this a device that someone will be able to hand down to their kid after spending $10,000 or more? After all, handing down watches in a family line isn’t uncommon, especially when the watch is an expensive model. And of course there are ridiculously expensive mechanical watches out there, but they’re designed to last a long, long time.

The Apple Watch, based on the software available for it, will probably last a lot longer than other smartwatches on the market from competing companies (some first-generation Android Wear devices are already being left behind with Android Wear 2.0 coming down the pipe), but it’s not likely to last 10, 15, or 20 years. It’s simply not designed to do that.

As a piece of technology I wouldn’t consider paying $10,000 for an Apple Watch — the inclusion of gold notwithstanding. (Granted, I wouldn’t pay $10,000 or more for a watch anyway.) I wouldn’t pay that because it’s a device designed to just be one of many, replaced by something newer and better in just a matter of time. And, usually, a very short period of time.

People were already talking about the Apple Watch 2 and what it could offer almost days after the original Apple Watch was unveiled. And that talk hasn’t slowed down, either.

It’s been over a year since Apple launched the Apple Watch, so it’s already missed what many believed would be a yearly refresh cycle, just like we see with iPhones and iPads and (most) Macs. And now that we’ve missed that date, I can’t help but wonder about refresh cycles. Because other smartwatches from competing manufacturers are sticking to the yearly refresh cycle, but is that okay?

I didn’t think it was at first, but that’s because I was stuck in the mindset that watches should last longer — even if they can’t be passed down to the next generation. But, there isn’t anything different from a smartwatch and a smartphone. We want the newest and best smartphone every year, so why shouldn’t we want the same thing from our smartwatch? If a company can legitimately put out a worthwhile followup to a smartwatch in the next year, why shouldn’t we want to upgrade?

That’s what I want you to tell me. Do you think smartwatches should have a longer upgrade cycle, or is a year good enough? Let me know!

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