The announcement of the Samsung Gear, Samsung’s attempt to one-up Apple in the innovation area IMHO, brought up some interesting questions about the design of a smartwatch. Most notably, what is a smart watch hired to do? What are its limitations and how can it be used best to take advantage of its differences to a smartphone?
To me, the Galaxy Gear seems to me like a typical feature-rich device. The 1.3MP camera is what stood out the most. Is there really a need for an even crappier camera than the one you have on your phone? It’s faced outwards from your wrist, meaning it’s not even for video calls a la Inspector Gadget.
I could go on about my thoughts on the Galaxy Gear, what Samsung should do, what Apple should do, but those are my opinions and not worth much salt. So here’s what I personally want my watch to do. The list is pretty intense so get ready for it.
- Tell me when.
This could be many things. Tell me the time and date. Tell me when I get a call, a message, an @ mention. Tell me when it’s going to rain. Tell me what I’m listening to. Tell me when I should start mosey-ing over to my next meeting. Notifications, short and sweet. Keep individual apps to a minimum. I don’t need an entire RSS reader on my watch. I’ll do that on my phone/tablet/computer. Keep out the clutter, and only show me what matters to me most, when I need to know about it.
- Act on them.
Let me act on notifications quickly. Input methods would be simple taps and gestures, or voice control. An acknowledge or a remind me later. A quick reply. The Mailbox app’s gestures are really handy for simple action items like archive, delete, or remind me later. That would be perfect for a small touchscreen. Skip to the next song or podcast.
That’s it. The rest are bells and whistles.
* Update: I just noticed that this post was exactly a year from my previous post regarding critics urging Samsung to be a first-mover. How fitting.
Original Article: Korean critics call for Samsung to ‘reinvent itself as a first-mover’ in wake of US verdict @ The Verge
I own both as well… there’s innovation and then there’s editing. Android does a lot of editing (bigger screens, bigger chips, more fine tuning options) but they all don’t always seem to mesh well in the end. I don’t think Samsung has it in them to innovate in the smartphone division. Apple’s iPhone was a big leap innovation in comparison to the mass market user interface experience on smartphones prior to it, Android stole their idea & edited on top of it to give a more open (yet clunky) alternative. They’ve refined a great deal, as have Apple.. with a bunch of edits. The only people I see truly innovating at the moment is Microsoft & I’m certainly not a Microsoft fan. I really don’t ever see Samsung taking that kind of initiative to truly bring something different to the mass market. So copy and edit, they shall continue to do. (http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/3/3289795/korean-critics-samsung-first-mover-us-trial#113520149)
There’s a big difference between editing and innovation. I like all of the edits Android and iOS have brought but there is a very clear and genuine difference between the UI experience on smartphone’s before and after the iPhone. And the edits Android made existed well before the iPhone in mass market smartphones. Widgets were in smartphones. Multitouch technology did not exist in a mass marketed smartphone devices & it clearly changed the atmosphere and moved tides. I like a larger screen but it’s not innovation it’s a larger screen. High resolution display was also another great addition, innovation? Maybe, maybe not. The only reason I see Microsoft’s universal changes as innovation is because it is a drastic departure from the way things were & may be a sign of how the way things will be. Just look at July and other recently updated sites. They’re beginning a trend. As did Apple with the iPhone. (http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/3/3289795/korean-critics-samsung-first-mover-us-trial#113517787)
A product is not a sum of it’s parts, but how it is put together in a cohesive and intelligent way to solve a problem. Just because a smartphone device uses existing technology in regards to it’s screen, CPU, memory, storage, and battery doesn’t mean the end product is not innovative.
The definition of innovation, provided by Merriam-Webster, is “a new idea, method, or device”. That definition is very broad and can mean pretty much anything. The way I see it, most people are subscribing to this very broad definition of innovation, but only to the device that they prefer. To the other device(s), they use a very narrow definition and very selectively at that.
From what I read, Tuan X used a very narrow definition of innovation, but applied it to both camps. That is why he used the term “edits” to describe something “new” but not “ground-breaking”. He mentions larger displays as an example. When applying the broader definition of “innovation”, yes, 3.5 inches is different from 3.0 and 3.2 and is “new”. But when applying the narrower definition, then no, a 0.3″ inch increase in display size is hardly considered “ground-breaking”. High-DPI may not seem much feature-wise, but requires a lot of technology (screen, GPU, RAM, battery, OS modifications just to name a few) to back it up. I agree with Tuan X that it is debatable whether or not it is truly “ground-breaking”, but Apple certainly thinks it is.
The way I see it, Apple’s iPhone was innovative in the fact that it combined the functions of an iPod, a mobile phone, and an internet communication device, used a capacitive touchscreen as it’s main user input method, minimalized the device front face in order to emphasize the screen, made a colorful grid of icons with a fixed row on the bottom as it’s main UI, integrated swiping and pinch-to-zoom as the main navigation method into the OS, separated each different functions into it’s own full-screen apps so that basically the device becomes the app, and produced it in a single mass-market device. Previous products may have attempted to address bits and pieces of the above, but not a single one addressed all of them in one cohesive device.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 was innovative, not in the hardware specs, but in how it designed the UI. It was still a capacitive touchscreen driven device, but the software UI consisted of tiles of dynamic information with an emphasis on content text over app icons and graphics with a layout that intentionally extends past the screen to depict more information. Again, many products before it might have included some of these features, but not all of them in a single cohesive manner for the UI of a mass-market mobile device. I don’t believe they introduced a new UI concept just because they “can” (although there are strong arguments that support the fact that they “must”, see recent Samsung vs Apple trial results). I believe they truly wanted to solve the problem of the mobile phone UI where it took too much work to get information. They make this point strongly in their advertisements. They wanted information to be “glanceable” so that you can get off your phone and back to real life.
My main point is that if you want discuss “innovation”, use the same definition across both camps and don’t apply it to a single “feature” but to the product overall and how it is used to solve a problem.
Why smart people make dumb decisions, especially regarding technology and the future.
There is no data for the future. The data that they have doesn’t support decisions for the future either. The data they do have shows how to milk additional revenue or profits from existing sources, but can’t pioneer new sources.
While reading the Auto Blog, I learned that any car that BMW makes needs to make a good business case. There needs to be data showing that a certain product will be successful in order to pursue it. But where is the data for innovation? If there is market data showing a certain product will succeed, it means somebody already did it. Just the fact that you have data means you are already late to the game.
Innovation comes in the lack of data.
Usually, a company will form with a visionary, an inventor, and idealist as the spearhead. They become successful and hire good managers to keep the company well maintained. When the innovator leaves the head position, usually it is filled by one of the managers below. But their entire success is based on maintaining and growing somebody else’s innovation, not on creating new ones. They might have some of the roots if they’ve been there from the start, but managers replace managers and innovation is lost. The organizational structure stifles innovation.
What seems like a better organizational structure is to separate the existing and growing products from the innovators. A team of innovators will pioneer a new product and grow it, hopefully to some degree of success. Some of the team will remain, along with existing managers to help grow the product. The rest of the innovators will create(or acquire) a new team to pioneer new products and then pass them off again. The executive board should have managing experience to grow existing products, but the focus should be on the future, not the past. That requires more innovators on the board, not managers.
Followup: Clay Christensen, How to Pick Managers for Disruptive Growth
One of the most vexing dilemmas that stable corporations face when they seek to rekindle growth by launching new businesses is that their internal schools of experience have offered precious few courses in which managers could have learned how to launch new disruptive businesses. In many ways, the managers that corporate executives have come to trust the most because they have consistently delivered the needed results in the core businesses cannot be trusted to shepherd the creation of new growth.
I’ve been lazy in speaking my mind on this blog, but I’d like to say the main reason was due to me preparing for the next step in my life, parenthood. I’d like to say it has been an amazing roller coaster so far and my baby girl is just a little over a month old now. She is currently grunting and stretching in her sleep and I find her infinitely amusing and absolutely precious.
In my attempt to keep a blog, I have found that it is hard to write in my own voice when simply writing itself is so foreign to me. Therefore I have started a new project to practice writing. With Horace Dediu’s permission, I have started translating his Asymco articles in Korean. I admire his calm and simple, clear and concise tone of voice and I hope that mimicking his voice will help develop my own.
Since Asymco is updated fairly frequently, I doubt I will have much time to continue this blog. You can follow my writings at asymcorea.wordpress.com.