A watch for 2011: The analog-faced smartphone companion

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber is sceptical to the suggestion that hardware-centric companies should embrace software. He writes: “I wonder if professor Cusumano thinks companies like, say, Rolex and BMW ought to shift to “software and services” too?” And while his scepticism is just in many cases, a software-centric watch with classic esthetics can have lots of potential. So let’s roll with Rolex.

This article is a draft. Unless you accept the chaotic nature including missing sections, don’t read this post.

I don’t wear a watch. They’re either butt ugly, too sparingly equipped or just stupid. I don’t need a watch as jewellery, and my smartphone covers all the information needs current watches has to offer me. However, there’s a watch I’d really like to wear if it existed: The good looking one that helped me keep my smartphone in my pocket.

What Rolex could sell me is a watch with classic look, without any obvious indication of digital services, that anyhow connects to crucial digital services through my smartphone. Some watches have hands to tell the moon phase and the time at your mistress’ place. My Rolex should discreetly tell me everyday stuff I normally depend on the phone for. Where do I go from here? Do I have any notifications? What’s my heart rate?

Why? Because people who stare blankly into their phones when walking down the street look like zombies. Because people who constantly checks their smartphone for some pointless update look like addicts.

My phone should stay in my pocket as much as possible. To help me, I want a discreet way to know that the world hasn’t radically changed since last time I checked (which, under normal conditions, is 2 minutes ago). I think a connected watch can provide that help.

Required specs

  • Classic wristwatch look with an analog time face
  • Programmable hands
  • Firmware upgradeable with smartphone connectivity
  • No immediately visible digital display

Optional specs

Possible digital services

  • iPod (music) control.
  • Heart rate monitor (with wristband accessory).
  • Notifier service: Calendar event, new SMS, new e-mail, incoming phone call, RSS update, friend in vicinity, public Wi-Fi availability.
  • Don’t disturb mode (similar to flight mode, but with dormant connection between phone & watch). Optionally for 2 phone & watch pairs simultaneously, so that the girlfriend can get the boyfriend offline.
  • Web quarantine (timer based), so that addicts (like me) can be forced offline for a while.
  • Weather forecast.
  • Bearing (current compass direction of travel) and direction to next waypoint.
  • Order cab now and direction to public transit (on desired route).

So, in response to Gruber, yes. I would love Rolex to shift to software & services.

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About Bjørn Solnørdal Tennøe

Interaction designer, happy camper & biker, proud father to three krazy kids.
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