Opinion

A transparent display would fix a smartwatch’s fundamental problem

For Christmas this year, to my surprise I was given an actual watch by my girlfriend. Her reason? That I cannot wear a smartwatch for occasions such as a business meeting or when you go out for dinner. This led me to think over the state of smartwatches these days.

At the time of writing this, I have been using a Gear S2 classic with a metal band for over three weeks, and I cannot really complain about its looks. But why did my girlfriend gift me a real watch instead of something else? The idea behind it is quite simple. A watch can be seen as a status symbol and it is always on to tell you the time; you always see the face of the watch and all its beauty. Yes, this is possible with the always-on mode on the Gear S2 and any other smartwatch in existence today.

However, you only see the hands (or the numbers, if you’re using a digital clock) in order to save battery power. A watch should normally be visible to everyone – you should be proud of wearing your watch, otherwise it doesn’t really make any sense. If you want to know the time, you should be able to see it directly and at all times without issues, which isn’t the case even with the always-on mode on smartwatches.

The solution for this is rather easy – a transparent circular screen would solve these problems. To be honest, we would have expected something like this from Apple, a company many find to be the trendsetters in the mobile technology space. Yet, the Apple Watch has no transparent display, though it did have a nice interface that got Samsung thinking and got them working on the Gear S2.

In fact, Samsung is rather close to a perfect smartwatch. The Gear S2 does lack many apps but in terms of usability and appearance, the Gear S2 classic is a great product on the market today. But it would be great if the Korean manufacturer could come out with a Gear watch that has a transparent screen that lights up when you receive a notification. This watch could sell a lot compared to existing Samsung smartwatches that we’ve seen until now.

But what about watch faces? Yes, they can unfortunately only be seen when the screen is on, but what strikes me is that most users will only use a single watch face after a while, either because they like it a lot or they get bored of changing it all the time. But then again, would Tag Heuer be happy if they see someone standing with a Rolex watch face on their Tag Heuer smartwatch? Would Nike be happy if people wear Adidas shoes with their logo on them?

The Gear S2 is a thing of beauty, yet I do not wear it to special occasions anymore. Not because the Gear S2 isn’t suitable, but because you have a better choice. Namely, the traditional watch.

P.S.: Speaking of Rolex, Rolex and its rotary bezel would actually go along well with Samsung’s latest smartwatch as they more or less use the same technique. The only problem I see now is the hardware on a smartwatch (like the battery), but luckily they are working on it already.

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