Rhodri Marsden: Smartwatches? Some of them don't even tell the time!
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Wednesday 05 February 2014
They said that 2013 was going to be the year of the smartwatch, but it wasn't. I still don't know anyone who wears one, and while I'd hesitate to extrapolate this anecdotal evidence into anything meaningful, it's fair to say that the gadget-buying public have failed to be persuaded that they need one. Samsung had a go with the Galaxy Gear, but failed to set our wrists alight, and while the Kickstarter-funded Pebble watch looks more promising, we remain largely indifferent.
We may believe subconsciously that Apple's iWatch – when it finally arrives – will be sufficiently astonishing to change our attitudes, but despite fevered speculation this week that it might be solar or kinetically powered, the predicted birthdate for the iWatch still oscillates between autumn of this year and some point in 2016.
In the meantime, the thunder of wrist-mounted technology has been stolen this week by a watch so lacking in functionality that it's barely a watch at all. "Durr" (pictured below) is described by its Norwegian designers as a "shivering unisex bracelet", and, while it's shaped like a watch, its only function is to vibrate gently every five minutes, making you aware of the passing of time and, if you want to be philosophical about it, the preciousness of life itself.
It's safe to say that the general reaction to this one-trick pony has been one of bemusement verging on contempt, particularly bearing in mind its €90 price tag. Not helped by the fact that the name of the product is also the noise we make when we're feeling a bit moronic, the Durr has been branded a "glorified egg-timer", and many other things not fit for print. Despite that, the first run has sold out, and they're currently making a load more.
In an age when distraction is rampant and procrastination is endemic, the idea of the Durr is far from "durr", however. Technological solutions to the problem of "hyperbolic discounting" (having fun now while ignoring our longer-term goals) are many and various, but the one I've always favoured is a simple "clang" that sounds every 15 minutes to remind me not to fritter time away. I achieve that on a Mac by using a neat little application called Apimac Timer, but the Durr does precisely the same thing, making you aware of how time flies when you're having fun and how it doesn't when you're watching The Jump on Channel 4.
Aaron Souppouris, a writer for the culture and technology site The Verge, who got his hands on one last month, noted a real boost to his productivity – and to be honest, I'd currently welcome anything that stopped me playing Wordament, a game that you must never install on your phone unless you want your life to disappear into an alphabetical void.
Those who complain that the Durr just doesn't do anything are forgetting that we're reluctant to buy smartwatches because we don't actually need them to do anything. Smartphones do it all. The main reason to wear a watch is still an aesthetic one, and while I wouldn't say the Durr is particularly beautiful, at least its design isn't constrained by the problem of cramming a pedometer, heart rate monitor and sleep analyser inside it.
Meanwhile, British developer James Brooks has just written an app for the Pebble called Purr, which emulates the Durr by switching off the Pebble's screen and buzzing every five minutes. Maybe 2014 will be the year of the dumbwatch.
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
The 10 Best juicers
Boxing Day sales: From Asos to Harrods, the best fashion deals
The 10 Best food processors
Health: When masturbation can be fatal: The practice of auto-erotic asphyxia is often concealed by a coroner's verdict. Monique Roffey looks at a lethal taboo
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 Sussex couple die in suspected Christmas Day 'suicide pact'
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Award-winning pharma softw...
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Java Developer is requ...