Ask Trish: Smartwatches

“I’m thinking of getting a smartwatch, wondering what you think of them”

Jul 9, 2024

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By Trisha Prabhu

“I’m thinking of getting a smartwatch, wondering what you think of them”

Hi there, and welcome back to another week of Ask Trish! I hope you’re all well and having a wonderful start to July. That’s a right…we’re in a whole new month! And we’re now officially over halfway through 2024. (I know…take a moment to gasp. I did!)

Thank you so much to this week’s question-er for the fantastic question on a topic we’ve yet to broach here on Ask Trish…a wearable that has, in the last 5-10 years, become incredibly popular: smartwatches. As I describe in this week’s video, nowadays, you’ll see smartwatches everywhere, from the arms of runners (I would know – I’m a runner myself!) to professionals to teenagers. It seems like everyone has one. It raises the questions: what exactly are smartwatches? What should you consider when you get one? And what might be some reasons not to get a smartwatch? In this week’s post, I’ll offer y’all my take. Hopefully, this should help anyone thinking of buying a smartwatch make a more informed call.

Sound like a plan? Let’s get into it:

First and foremost, what are smartwatches? A smartwatch is a wearable (or a technology designed to worn) that is worn around the wrist, much like any other watch. And indeed, like any other watch, a smartwatch will tell you the time…but it will also do much more than that. Today, many smartwatches can track and evaluate your workout sessions, measure your heart rate, listen to music, receive messages (whether emails or texts), and allow you to make/take calls. Many allow you to do that via voice assistant, meaning you can literally go hands-free with this device. It’s no wonder, then, that smartwatches have become so popular: according to Pew Research Center, in 2020, 21%, or about 1 in 5 Americans said they “regularly wear a smartwatch or wearable fitness tracker.” So, what options are out there? The short answer? Tons and tons of options. The longer answer is that many smartphone manufacturers, like Apple, Google, and Samsung, offer corresponding smartwatches (and even then, each company often offers a whole line-up of different types of smartwatches). In addition, there are more niche smartwatches geared towards specific activities, like the Fitbit smartwatch, which is more fitness and health-focused (note that Fitbit was recently purchased by/is now owned by Google).

Okay, cool – now we have a sense of what smartwatches are. But what should you, as a buyer, consider when you get one? Of course, every person is likely to have their own criteria/set of relevant decision-making considerations; with that said, here are a couple of factors that everyone ought to think about:

  • Why do you want a smartwatch? Are you hoping to use it for work-outs? Perhaps you want to more easily speak with friends and family when you’re on a walk around the neighborhood? Or maybe you think it just looks cool (fair enough)! Whatever the reason(s), it’s helpful to begin by reflecting on what’s motivating you towards this device – and assessing i) if that’s a motivation you’d indeed like to entertain and ii) if you feel that what the device will give you outweighs the cost.
  • Cost. And on that note, yes, you should think about the price. Smartwatches can be quite pricey; the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (their fanciest model) comes in at $799, before any customization or taxes. So consider: what can you spend? If it’s not $799, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the game; there are definitely cheaper options. Some of Apple’s other watches are as cheap as $250, and other, more niche/less well-known watches can be far, far cheaper – some as cheap as $25-50. 
  • Your other devices. Keep in mind, though, that cost is not the only constraint here. You’ll also want to think about what other devices you have. As I mentioned, many smartphone manufacturers, e.g., Apple, Samsung, Google, etc. make corresponding smartwatches – and these smartwatches are often designed to work with their specific smartphone (and, in fact, may not work with another company’s smartphone!). (Is that annoying? Yes. Oh, well.) So be careful before you buy – if you’ve got a Google smartphone, you may not be able to get much out of an Apple smartwatch (and vice versa).

Last thing…are there any reasons you may not want to get a smartwatch? It’s a great question. From my personal experience and the conversations I’ve had with others (including tech experts!), two things come to mind. First, it’s important to remember that smartwatches collect a lot of sensitive data, including data about your body. (Like I mentioned, many can track everything from your heart rate to your movements!) Often, users can monitor their data via a corresponding health or fitness app…but in many cases, the privacy policies for those apps also allow them to share your data with other entities, e.g., researchers. Per that Pew Research Center study I cited earlier in this post, a plurality of of Americans (41%) think “it is acceptable for makers of fitness trackers to share users’ data with medical researchers seeking to better understand the link between exercise and heart disease” – but still, that’s not a majority. If you’re in the majority of folks who disagree or are not sure if you’re comfortable with that, it may be worth having a think before you buy a smartwatch…and possibly doing some research as to how you can minimize data collected. The other thing to note is the constant presence of your smartwatch. Some people love it, but I’ve had a lot of friends ultimately retire their smartwatch after tiring of the constant notifications and the feeling of being perpetually “wired in.” Said a good friend of mine, “When I go for a run, I want it to be me and the trail. Not me, the trail, and my smartwatch.” If that sounds like you, a smartwatch might not be the best fit (or, at the very least, you’ll want to think about when you will and won’t wear it).

I hope that that was a helpful look at smartwatches! Comment on this week’s TikTok video to share if these insights were helpful…and (if you don’t already have one) if you think you might or might not purchase a smartwatch! Either way, I’d also really appreciate it if, after that, you take a few more moments to share with me whatever tech or internet-related concerns or musings you have here. It literally takes 30 seconds – seriously! This is not false advertising! – and you get some top tier advice from me. Moreover, our entire community benefits. So (as Sabrina Carpenter would say) please, please, please submit your contributions now! Thank you all a ton in advance for your amazing questions.

Have a great week,

Trish

@asktrish

This week, Trish takes on a gadget that everyone seems to have now: smart watches. What exactly are smart watches? What should you consider when you get one? And what might be some reasons not to get a smart watch? In this week’s post, Trish shares her take. Get the scoop — link in bio ⬆️⬆️⬆️ #smartwatch #tech

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