Watch 2.0

CASIO 593 A163WA-1QGF wristwatchWristwatches are becoming a bygone accessory that is now worn mostly for fashion rather than utility. Being supplanted by the ubiquitous cell phone, the watch is fast disappearing from our world.

Just a few years ago, a wrist watch was the ultimate sign of wealth, more telling than gold chains or ruby-encrusted rings, a fine wristwatch was a sure sign that the person wearing it was “somebody.” Eventually, with the advent of electronics, the watch became cheaper and more easy to mass produce, eventually doing what all useful items of luxury do: becoming everyday.

Digital watches were all the craze in the 1980s and 1990s, then the cell phone enter the scene and watches became less functional and returned to their mostly fashion-centric role. James Bond, of course, will never be seen on screen without a watch and few bankers or Wall Street suits will be seen without a top-dollar watch on their wrist. But everyday Joes and Janes have largely stopped wearing them.

That might change soon.

A new generation of watches, with functionality that gets closer to smart phones every minute. It’s not surprising that the drivers of this new revolution (“Watch 2.0″) are the same people responsible for the smart phone takeover of our modern lives: Apple and Sony teamed with fashion designers like Nike. Dozens of small startups are also re-envisioning the once-common wristwatch.

These new watches are smart phone friendly, connecting with smart phones in various innovative ways. Of course, these wristwatches tell time, but they also have extras like displaying emails or tweets, measuring exercise exertion, land speed, elevation (or depth), play MP3s from your phone, and more. These are all, for the most part, functions designed to eliminate having to dig the phone out of your pocket for routine tasks or to add to the phone’s ability to track your eating, exercise, or health habits (one of the most popular app niches).

This is the first step in a coming evolution for wrist-based smart devices. Most of the companies involved in the design of these new watches are aiming towards the ultimate goal of either making the watch the phone itself or making it such an extension of the phone that most users don’t see much of a difference.

Executives who tried the new Sony Smartwatch, for example, liked its unobtrusive nature and the fact that they could check emails and tweets without seeming rude while sitting in meetings – they were just looking at the time, after all, right? In a sneakier, unexpected side note, they said flight attendants don’t check if watches are turned off, so if you’re using one on the plane, it’s unlikely anyone will notice.

The market will decide, ultimately, what we want out of Watch 2.0, but it definitely will be more than just telling time. What’s your idea for the perfect wristwatch?

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