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6 Features That Smartwatches Need Before Becoming 'Must Buy'

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Smartwatches. They're coming at us in waves, with Google's friends pushing two to market at the recent Google I/O conference and a third one set to follow soon. That's not to mention the dozen or so that have already been released by the likes of Samsung, Qualcomm, and others. And rumors of Apple's iWatch continue to proliferate, with many expecting it to arrive on store shelves later this year.

Why? Does anyone, outside of the core group of hardcore tech geeks, really want one of these things?

So far, existing models tell you the time, and send notifications from your phone. Pebble added a bit of functionality and third-party apps to theirs, but still, it didn't take off. And Google's Android Wear, which powers the newest trio, can handle some voice commands. But it's not enough

Here's what I'd like to see before I drop a few hundred dollars on a so-called smartwatch, some of which already exist, and some of which do not:

6. Near Perfect Voice Commands

The screen is what -- one to two inches big? Swiping and typing are going to be a pain, leaving talking to your watch like Inspector Gadget as the obvious solution. Google Now and Siri are pretty good for smartphones, but for a tiny watch, they need to be damn near perfect.

5. Fitness and Location-Tracking Sensors

This is the obvious one, and is a given for most models, including Samsung's existing devices (see: Galaxy Gear Fit) and Apple's rumored device. Currently, many people take their smartphones running with them, which allow them to track runs, but a smartwatch that tracks where you run, how fast you run, your heart rate, and your calories burned would be a must-have fitness accessory.

4. Music Streaming

A few years ago, people were wearing iPod Nanos as wristwatches, in large part for listening to music while exercising. Apple then, for some reason, changed the form factor of the Nano so that it wasn't wrist-friendly. In any case, it was an imperfect solution that required frequent charging, annoying wires, and manual syncing of MP3 songs.

Spotify is my favorite service in the world: unlimited music streaming of nearly every song ever made. You can also save playlists to your phone for offline use, which is great for not killing your battery. A smartwatch with a music streaming app, even one that only stores offline playlists, would be killer.

3. Insane Battery Life

What use is a watch if the battery is dead? Not much use at all. A smartwatch needs to last all day, even with music streaming and fitness tracking, and yet, it can't be a bulky monstrosity weighed down by extra batteries.

Motion-induced charging could be huge here: as your arm swings, battery life is extended. Apple's already filed for a patent for such an idea, so this is like a matter of when, not if.

2. No Wires

The music function isn't going to be much use if you keep accidently yanking the earbuds off your head. Current smartwatches come with Bluetooth built in, so wireless headphones or earbuds are going to be a must have accessory for smartwatch owners.

Then again, Bluetooth eats through battery life quickly.

1. Kill Switch

Stealing smartphones was the hot crime of the past few years. Imagine how popular $200 smartwatches, easily visible to passersby, will be. And since kill switches are helping to curb smartphone theft, they're going to be a "must have" feature for smartwatches as well.

One More Thing

It's got to look good. Nobody wants to walk around with the 2014 edition of a 1980s Casio Calculator watch. The Moto360 is a great start.

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