Few new product categories have received the amount of attention and hype garnered by the smartwatch. To hear some of the tech pundits talk, you’d think you’re living in the age of black and white TVs and rotary dial phones if you don’t have one. The fact of the matter is that smartwatches are here, and if you don’t mind putting up with some odd quirks there are plenty to choose from.
FixYa, a popular Q&A site, mined comments and troubleshooting request from over 6,000 of its users to give you a sense of what problems plague owners of five popular smartphones. (Note: When the site reports that 25 percent of the complaints about the Martian Passport, for example, related to speaker problems, that doesn’t mean that 25 percent of all of those devices have that problem. It means one quarter of all the total complaints about the Martian registered by FixYa users pertained to speaker issues.)
The Martian Passport won a number of awards and grabbed attention in the tech press when its founders raised the money to take it to market on Kickstarter. It’s a popular device, but not without problems. In addition to the complaints about speaker quality, users said they had difficulty reading text messages on the small screen (25 percent) and that they were not always notified of email when it hit their smartphones (another 25 percent). Users should also be careful not to get it wet, because it is not waterproof (20 percent of complaints).
The I’m Watch Smartwatch boasts a touchscreen, audio speakers for making phone calls, Bluetooth connectivity and 4GB of memory. Thirty percent of the complaints about the device related to issues with Bluetooth. Fixya users had difficulties setting up and using the I’m Watch Smartwatch because they found tethering (connecting the watch to a smartphone) trickier than connecting to Wi-Fi. The battery of the device reportedly loses charge relatively quickly when in use (30 percent of complaints), and it frequently does not make it through the day without a recharge.
Launched in the fall of 2013, the Sony SW2 contains most of the features that smartwatch owners have come to expect, including Bluetooth connectivity and notifications for email or texts. Battery life was the biggest problem noted by FixYa, with 30 percent of the registered complaints. The device uses Bluetooth connectivity in a lot of its applications and features, and the constant connection drains battery far faster than Sony claims. Lack of compatibility with any phone not made by Sony is another big complaint (20 percent). Frankly, I’m surprised there weren’t far more complaints, because that seems like a deal breaker to me.
For all of its accolades, says FixYa, “one of the major downsides of the Pebble Smartwatch is a lack of a speaker and voice control,” a failing mentioned in 30 percent of the complaints. What this means is that users are unable to make phone calls with the device or use voice commands. Nearly as many complaints (25 percent) focused on the fact that the Pebble doesn’t have a touchscreen, so users need to press physical buttons to control it.
(Note: The FixYa report also mentioned Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, but since the Galaxy Gear 2 is now out, I’m not including the older product in this post.)
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.