Case Study: Maform's Way of Designing Better Smartwatches

Few weeks ago Peti stopped typing on his laptop, looked up and said 'It would be so cool to design a good smartwatch'

All of us in the office looked up and we started talking. What would be a perfect smartwatch? What’s wrong with current ones? Why would we even need a smartwatch?

Designers have the tendency to articulate their dissatisfaction more than just leaving mean comments on forums. Designers are analysing, redesigning, envisioning, questioning things in their status quo, and doing it always with the user in mind.

 

Analysing

Géza knows a lot about watches and he is obsessed with technology and science. He collected an inspiring set of examples where the relevant technologies are heading. He started by taking apart of the popularkickstarter smartwatch, the Pebble.

pebble teardown

Pebble Teardown at iFixit

When we look inside the Pebble we can identify some of the main components which are crucial in a smartwatch: battery, charging, display, buttons, accelerometer, vibration motor, PCB.

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Watch strap batteries could double the life of your wearable (Engadget)

What people are most worried about when it comes to gadgets is the battery life. There are some promising new products on the market which think beyond the conventional battery cells such as an ultra thin, flexible battery with 3.7V and 12mAh between US $1.2–2.8 (Alibaba.com)This technology would make it possible to integrate the battery into the strap or stack it in a specific form.

Seiko Kinetic (Seiko)

This is nice, but there are traditional watches which can run for years or even work without the need of charging. Such technologies like Seiko’skinetic drive which generates electrical energy by the movement of the wrist, or the Citizen’s Eco-Drive which can harnesses the power of light-from any natural or artificial light source, and converts it into energy.

Citizen Eco-Drive (Citizen)

One of each is probably not enough (as you can read it on the wired: Could you charge a Smartwatch by shaking it?), but the combination of these technologies can help a lot. And if kinetic energy would power a gadget on your wrist, there are creative motivators of recharging (Wankband by pornhub)

Technology is exciting but it should not be the main drive. The question is not ‘What can we do with this technology?’ but ‘Which technology can enable our goals?’. Some people have the vision of a phone replacement on their wrist and some believe that the power of processing and connectivity should remain in our pockets. This fundamental difference can be seen on the Puls and the Pebble.

 

Redesign

Robi is our in-house photoshop wizard who is most known for his ‘redesigns’ in the car tuning scene. Next to that he is an Apple fanboy who was not entirely satisfied with the design of the latest product of the company. So he fixed it.

The original Apple Watch on the left, the redesigned ones are on the right by Robert Kovacs

 

Envisioning the future

Zoli despite his German precision and down-to-earth attitude chose to look into the future where he could envision a watch of his taste. Discarding all technological limitation, he came up with an idea of a timepiece which is extremely thin, has no bezels, and both the front and the back of the object can be a sensor or an actuator. This means both of the side can either a heart rate monitor or a screen.

SmartPedant concept by Zotan Major

 

Questioning the status quo

Apor has a great habit of questioning everything. This is how he could rethink the recycling or the faucet in the past.

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The promise of a smartwatch is that you have amazing contextual information and functionality in a tiny package right on your wrist. What if this gadget has the same ability to adapt to its physical use just like it does with its software.

 

Designing for the extreme

My daily driver is an android phone and I am using a Pebble for almost a year now. In the near future the market will be probably filled with cheapAndroid wear devices based on the trends what Google promotes with the the lower end hardware support like the Moto G or the Moto E.

Who are the potential users of an ‘Affordable’ Android wear devices? Youngsters, elderly, people from the ‘developing countries’ like India, China, Africa, Middle and South America. I took a closer look at the kids and the elders, how would they use it, what are the hardware features they would appreciate? What applications they can and would really love to use?