It is very interesting to see the new smartwatches focusing on notifications as their main feature. This begs the question; why are notifications so important?
Are notifications so important that many people are willing to purchase a several hundred dollar device and wear it wherever they go?
I don’t think so. I think that the only reason why smartwatches are offering notifications is because it was relatively easy to do. Smartwatches are small so you can’t display a lot of information on them. You can’t provide a good UI that can be used to enter information. The only use-case that was left was notifications. The focus on notifications was not because notifications are important; it was because there was nothing else that Samsung, Google could think of putting on the device.
So the issue remains. Smartwatches are a form-factor in search of a use-case. This is not innovation.
Innovation in wearables lies in understanding what problem they can uniquely solve. How can a device that will be with you at all times enrich your life?
Of course, there may not be a market for wearables after all. Unlike smartphones, wearables are not a replacement for a device that people were already carrying around with them. Wearables are asking the public to carry a second device in addition to their smartphone, which overlaps a lot in functionality. Whether or not there is a market for such a device is very unclear. Even if it existed, it is easy to imagine that it would take a huge amount of time to spread. It is a speculative market.
Innovation is rarely about a technology searching for a market. It’s more often about making a complex product simpler and easier to use, thereby both increasing the number of people who use it and the occasions in which it is used. Notifications simply don’t qualify for this.