Is a Watch really what we need?

Yesterday Apple, to the surprise of not a single person, announced the Apple Watch, coming sometime next year. Short on specifics and long on another stab at Apple’s “one more thing” magic (Tim Cook actually said those word when introducing the watch), the Watch will be (slightly) less clunky than its predecessors and competitors, be able to track (and share!) your heartbeat, and show you Twitter messages (!!!!), all for a starting price of $349. Yet it’s still very unclear if a public already addicted to their smartphones and carrying around 90% of the Watches functionality already will go for what amounts to a declaration of nerdiness, to be worn on the wrist in homage to all that is Apple.

Earlier this year, Paul Thurrott posted on rumors he’s heard regarding a potential Microsoft entry into the “wearable” market. Only instead of a Watch, according to Thurrott, Microsoft is prepping a health-conscious wristband (“It’s a wristband, not a watch”, Thurrott says), to be “announced and sold in the fourth quarter 2014”. Here’s what he said back in July:

Microsoft will take a different approach. It will work with Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.

The focus, however, is the same as with Samsung Gear and similar fitness bands: Using multiple sensors, it will track your fitness—steps, calories burned, heart rate, and the like—throughout the day and interoperate with apps on mobile phones. Microsoft makes some great apps, already—hint, hint—including Bing Health & Fitness and Healthvault. It will work with third party apps too, of course.

Now, I’m sure not going to wear, or use, a watch to check Twitter when my phone is already right here, and I have a dash mount for my phone (a Lumia 925). I’m much better off composing a Tweet or a text on my phone than on a little square piece of jewelry on my wrist, and I’m sure not going to be seen dictating messages to Siri (or Cortana, for that matter), Dick Tracy-like.

Where a wearable does start to make sense is as a sensor: a device that you wear, hopefully as unobtrusively as possible, that monitors your heartbeat, steps, location, speed, etc., and stores that info for later analysis or sends it off to your phone, or more precisely apps on your phone, to analyze and display that info. Sure it can have a display, maybe showing the time, and notifications to check your phone for messages or alerts, but it isn’t a “display” device, it’s a sensor. To me, that starts to make some, well, sense!

Of course, this all depends on whether or not Microsoft actually ever produces such a device, but the approach, with the wearable acting as an extension of, rather than a replacement for the phone seems to be heading in the right direction. What do you think? Are you looking forward to wearing a watch again? Would it replace your phone, at least some of the time? What’s your reaction to yesterday’s Apple Watch announcement?