Published on October 12, 2012 by Lennart Ziburski.

a smartwatch

that actually makes sense

Glanceable information on your wrist

More often than not, we pull our smartphone out just to put it back into it's pocket a few seconds later - we are just using it to check on notifications, fire a quick message or see if it's going to rain soon. Whenever we do this, we disrupt what we are currently doing, or even disrupt the conversation we are having with our friends.

A similar problem existed many years ago: When you wanted to know the time, you'd always need to get your pocket watch out just to put it back in seconds later. This was solved with the invention of the wristwatch. And now it's time for this basic concept of glanceable, simple information on your wrist, to take the same leap that smartphones took with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.

Not just a smaller iPhone

Existing smartwatches are a geeky accessory instead of the wristwatch that every smartphone owner would want to wear. That's for two reasons.

First, for a smartwatch to make sense, it shouldn't just be a smaller iPhone. Instead, it actually needs to be better than the iPhone for the tasks you are going to use it for. You aren't going to write an email on your watch, but you are going to check the weather on it - because that's something you want to do on-the-go. So it needs to be optimized for these simple tasks being executed in a moving environment - in contrast to current smartphone interfaces, which are made for increasingly complex tasks.

Second, a watch is much more personal than a phone. It's a fashion statement and you actually wear it on your arm for most of the day so that people see it. It's much more intimate than a phone and shouldn't look like a gadget, but like an actual wristwatch.


You interact by swiping and tapping on the round 1.4" touchscreen, which displays a beautiful and simplified interface.


The round screen is surrounded by a wheel, which you can rotate to scroll through multiple items and adjust values.


Notifications are an important part of of the smartwatch, because much too often, we pull our phones out only to check the notification we just got. In fact, it's quite rude to check your phone while talking with someone else - but we often just can't help but check when we notice our phone vibrating.

Moreover, notifications are extremely flexible because, ideally, they provide you with the information you need without prior interaction. With the app selection on our phones growing, notifications on the wristwatch could easily sync with the notification center on iPhone or even Google Now, which does a great job at delivering relevant and personal information when they are needed.

When you get a new notification, the smartwatch vibrates and the notification fills the screen for a few seconds, allowing you to look at it and go back to what you were doing without further interaction. Of course, you can also swipe them away to get rid of them immediately or sometimes swipe up to act on them (e.g. reply to a message through voice input). Additionally, if you decide that a notification requires more complex interaction (like reading a long email), you can just unlock your phone and it'll immediately open the notification's app for you.

Missed notifications are indicated by simple icons below the clock. To look them up, you can (in most cases) simply swipe left on your watch. You'll then see the most recent notification and are able to scroll through all of them by rotating the wheel.


While notifications are the main way to get you information without prior interaction, Siri allows data entry and specific information through interaction. Yet, Siri on the smartwatch is build for much quicker interaction than Siri on your iPhone, as you are probably on-the-go and want to do something really fast when you use your watch. That's also the reason why Siri has a much more focused and simple interface on the smartwatch than on the iPhone.

You can access Siri from nearly everywhere by swiping right on your watch. It's feature set is generally identical to the one found on the iPhone, which also means that it has enormous growth potential in the future. Especially with a Siri API, you'd suddenly be wearing an incredibly powerful device on your wrist, giving you access to all your apps and services at a glance. Additionally, if you realize that the smartwatch won't cut it while talking with Siri, just unlock your iPhone and you can instantly resume talking with Siri where you left off on your watch.


Panels are similar to apps on your phone, but much simpler as they usually have just one screen and very limited functionality. You switch between them by swiping vertically and are free to rearrange, add and delete them to your liking. The watch will automatically get you back to the home panel after some time of inactivity, so that you don't have to swipe back manually.


This is your classic watch. You can choose your own watchface and background image. In addition to telling the time, it can also indicate unread notifications, tell you that a timer is set or just show the current date.


The timer is probably the most used and most flexible clock app on a smartphone, so it only makes sense to have quick-access to it on your watch. Just rotate the wheel to select the amount of minutes and tap to activate the timer.


The only weather you care about when you are on-the-go is the one in the next few hours. That's why you can simply select the time by rotating the wheel and immediately get the weather condition and the chance of rain.


You can get all the information about the song you are listening to by a look on your wrist. Additionally, you can tap to play / pause, swipe to go to the next / previous song and rotate the wheel to change the volume.


Your smartwatch automatically gets the route you have entered on your phone to make directions available directly on your wrist. Moreover, you can rotate the wheel to scroll through steps and tap to switch to a map view.


When you get a call, you can see who is calling without getting your phone out and accept the call with a simple tap or dismiss it by swiping it away. During the call, you can even see how many minutes you've already been talking.


Every person spends their day differently and needs different things on-the-go. Many more of the apps on your smartphone could allow for more convenient access on a smartwatch, like Nike+, FourSquare or Voice Memo.

Battery Life

As the display is the main battery drain, it's important to have it only on when needed. This is possible by sensors detecting wrist movement as well as sensing if a person is looking at the watch. Combined with the small screen and mostly white-on-black interface, an appropriate battery life (more than a week) should be doable. Additionally, wireless charging is becoming mainstream quickly and would be a viable option for the smartwatch.

Technical Specifications

As a smartwatch is not much more than a remote for your phone, it doesn't need really expensive hardware like flash storage, an A6 chip, WiFi, or even included headphones. What it does need is a small touchscreen (about 3.5 cm), bluetooth, a microphone and a vibration motor. The simple hardware requirements should allow a company like Apple to make the smartwatch a really thin device rather than a bulky gadget.


Two years ago, Apple sold the watch-like iPod nano for $149 (last year, they even lowered the price to $129). In many ways, that device was even more sophisticated hardware-wise (flash storage, bigger screen) than the smartwatch I'm proposing. Combining this with rapidly falling material costs as well as higher production volume, I believe it'd be very possible for the smartwatch outlined to be sold at a price point of $99.

A smartwatch can be so much more than a small iPhone on your wrist. It can filter the information overflow of today's services, while getting you the information you need more conveniently. And it can do this while still staying true to the classic form and function of a watch, enabling non-geeks to wear and afford a smartwatch.